Scientists and doctors are working every day to help fight the most common injury for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. That injury is traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Those working to solve it have come up with some creative solutions.
Most people are aware of its weakest form, the concussion, but fewer people know that in September, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs used over $100 million combined to fund two new consortia. One is focused at least partially on improving diagnosis and treatment of TBI.
Fox News’ Allison Barrie researched into six of the more surprising up-and-coming technologies that could be considered, all of which are under development by U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC).
- Helmets in a Pill – NNZ-2566 sounds like the test name for any pill in development at the moment, but USAMRMC is hoping it can help improve the outcome following acute brain trauma. A soldier would swallow the pill before they are at risk, and the drug protects the neurological tissue. While it works as a preventitive measure, the drug could also help reduce long-term damage. It is currently being tested for safety and efficacy in a 260-patient Phase 2 clinical trial.
- Safety Cocktails – TBI is a very complicated injury that usually requires more than one treatment. This is why the goal of USAMRMC’s Neuroprotective Drug Combination Therapy Strategy Program is to identify combinations of drugs that may work together to improve TBI treatment.
- Rapid Bio-Marker Testing – It is possible that a field blood tester could automatically identify neurological trauma like TBI. By taking a small amount of blood and analyzing it for brain specific biomarkers levels, trained medical technicians could diagnose and treat the injured in the field. Clinical trials are currently under way, and a 1,200-patient clinical trial is being planned by the FDA.
- Binoculars That Give Automated Eye Exams – Oculomotor dysfunction is a typical issue among wounded military, and it is often a result of TBI. The result is eyes that cannot accurately or easily move from one object to another or focus on a single target. Automated Binocular Vision Testers being developed by AMRCC would make this issue immediately identifiable. They are currently in the development phase.
- A Blast Explosure-Meter – Surprisingly, head trauma doesn’t require physical contact with the head. Research released this year showed that explosure from a single blast could cause long-term brain impairments. It is difficult for soldiers to know if they are within the danger radius for a blast, however. A “blast dosimeter” is being created by Military Operational Medicine Research and L-3 Communications/Jaycor to objectively measure if a soldier was within a serious or life-threatening blast range.
- The BrainScope – Just last week, BrainScope won another multi-million dollar contract from the U.S. Army for developing technology related to TBI. Their goal is to develop technology for use on Smartphones to rapidly access TBI within minutes on the field. It records brain electrical technology and uses advanced algorithms to quantify and characterize electrical activities within the brain, helping identify concussions.
With these technologies in or on the verge of testing, we can hope to see a significant decline in long-term issues resulting from TBI in our soldiers, and hopefully save them from pain and suffering long after they’ve returned home.