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Ultra-Sensitive Blood Test Reflects Brain Damage and Predicts Functional Outcomes after Ischemic Stroke

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Feb 2024
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Image: The blood test predicts functional outcome after an ischemic stroke (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The blood test predicts functional outcome after an ischemic stroke (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Acute ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke, occurs due to a lack of oxygen in the brain caused by a blood clot. Currently, there are no blood-based biomarkers that can accurately reflect the acute neuronal damage following a stroke or predict the clinical outcomes for stroke patients. Now, a new study has demonstrated that an ultra-sensitive blood test can reflect brain damage and also predict functional outcomes after acute ischemic stroke.

Brain-derived tau (BD-tau), a protein indicative of neuronal breakdown in the central nervous system, particularly in Alzheimer’s disease, has been the focus of recent research. Last year, a team from the University of Gothenburg (Gothenburg, Sweden) developed a novel blood test to measure BD-tau levels. This breakthrough represents a significant step towards creating a tool for tracking and monitoring Alzheimer's disease progression. In their latest research, this team explored whether BD-tau could also serve as a marker for neuronal injury following an acute ischemic stroke. Their findings revealed that, in a study of over 800 stroke patients, those with higher levels of BD-tau in their blood during the acute phase of the stroke were at an increased risk of more severe outcomes three months later.

These findings remained consistent regardless of age and stroke severity, which are traditionally regarded as the most reliable predictors of outcomes following an ischemic stroke, according to the NIH Stroke Scale. Additionally, the results were adjusted for variables such as sex and the day the blood sample was taken. The researchers have emphasized the need for further, more extensive studies to confirm these findings. They also highlighted the need for studies involving repeated blood sampling to determine the most effective timing for blood tests after the onset of a stroke, to best predict clinical outcomes.

“Our paper is the first report of a blood-based biomarker that is truly specific to acute neuronal injury in the brain in ischemic stroke,” said Associate Professor Tara Stanne. “The results indicate that BD-tau functions as a biomarker for most subgroups of ischemic stroke, meaning that it has great potential for future clinical implementation.”

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