CNY biotechnology company developing new method to test for brain injuries

OSWEGO, N.Y. –  Quadrant Biosciences, a Syracuse-based biotechnology company, is developing and researching new tests for detecting brain injuries such as concussions using a person’s saliva.

Although these tests do generate quicker results for doctors, the main draw is that the test will confirm the results of their preliminary tests, creating a more concrete diagnosis of their patient’s head traumas so they know how to treat them. This can be important for kids as well as college students who play high-contact sports, that may play through an injury due to the lack of physical symptoms.

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, there are around 1.7 to 3 million concussions from both sports and recreational activities every year. The researchers also mentioned that five in 10 concussions will go unreported or undetected. 

Laina Stupp, a nurse practitioner at SUNY Oswego’s Mary Walker Health Center, says these tests help doctors be more precise when treating head injuries.

“It doesn’t necessarily spell out for faster results, what it actually allows for is more confirmatory results because it gives more of an objective diagnosis,” Stupp said.

The method used by Stupp and other doctors is more subjective, according to Stupp. Those tests are based on the complaints of the patient as well as the results of their neurological exams. 

Currently at the Mary Walker Health Center, to test students that come in with a possible head injury, nurses like Stupp put the student through a neurological evaluation to test memory recall, reflexes and balance, among other tests.

Stupp and the other nurses also ask questions regarding possible symptoms the student might be feeling like headaches or not being able to get sleep. Stupp also asks about a student’s family history of migraines, anxiety, depression and ADHD as all can have an impact on the diagnosis.

The new tests being developed by Quadrant will allow for medical professionals to confirm the results they get from the evaluations they do with the patient.

“I can test somebody within minutes and tell whether they have a concussion or not,” said Kevin Joyce, the head athletic trainer at SUNY Oswego. “Within a couple of minutes I can tell you on the sideline whether or not someone will have a concussion.”

According to Joyce the part that takes the longest is figuring out what the concussion symptoms are afterwards.  Quadrant’s tests will allow medical professionals to figure out the severity of the concussion, as well as the symptoms that might come along with it.

Kevin Joyce on what a concussion is and how the new tests will help medical professionals diagnose them.

Having done some research in the field, Stupp says that these tests can help in a wide range of situations, from minor concussions to major head injuries.

“Anytime there is any sort of head injury, the recommendation to go ahead and get the testing done was within three and 72 hours, up to two weeks after the head injury, because that’s when the body releases different biomarkers in the saliva,” Stupp said. “Although it might have been a minor head injury, if it had been their third or fourth concussion, it may produce higher markers.”

The markers mentioned by Stupp indicate the severity of the head injury in the patient. 

Concussions have been a major issue in sports such as football, and these new tests could help out athletic trainers on top of doctors and nurses treating their athletes and patients in a more timely manner. 

The NCAA has its own concussion protocol in place in order to keep its athletes safe. According to Joyce, schools need to update their head injury evaluation every year to keep up with NCAA standards.

“You have to have an updated baseline test for your athletes,” Joyce said. “If you suspect a head injury, you kind of run the same test and judging by the results or what your findings are, you can diagnose them with a concussion.”

Joyce also said that there is no concrete test that can show that a patient or athlete has a concussion, which is where Quadrant’s new test will come in to give the medical professionals real results when checking for a concussion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 223,135 traumatic brain injury (TBI) related hospitalizations in 2019 and 64,362 TBI-related deaths in 2020. This equates to 611 hospitalizations per day, and 176 deaths per day, due to a head injury.

Quadrant expects these new tests to be made available in late 2023 in upstate New York with the goal of rolling out the tests nationwide.