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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of long-term morbidity among the young resulting in significant societal impacts. Yet advances in TBI therapeutic care have been largely limited by the complexity of the pathobiology, heterogeneity among patients, and imprecise endpoint assessments with which to evaluate efficacy. Thus, there remains a significant need for improved diagnostics, particularly for guiding novel therapeutic use and outcomes. So-called theragnostic assays are of particular interest in the new area of TBI rehabilitation, which ideally would target a window of heightened brain plasticity during which circuit remodeling would support recapitulation of lost function. The biochemical processes associated with brain plasticity following TBI produce metabolized components that are small enough in size to passively diffuse into peripheral fluid and by natural means are excreted into urine. We employ high performance mass spectrometry to quantify these byproducts, comprising a “TBI urinary signature” of some 2,500 TBI selective molecules. In this study we hypothesized that the urinary signature would evolve with the advent of a plasticity window during the course of inpatient rehabilitation. Urine samples from eight TBI patients were collected at admission and discharge from the VCU Health Science Center Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit. Application of non-supervised dimensional reduction analysis demonstrates that the TBI urinary signature is highly effective at classifying TBI patients from non-traumatized age / sex matched individuals. Further, our data demonstrate that the TBI urinary signature evolves distinctively between admission to rehabilitation (mean of 22 days post-TBI) and discharge from the unit (mean of 32 days post-TBI), clearly differentiating the point in recovery. Results further suggest individualized features grouping subjects into recovery classes that are being evaluated for functional correlates. Future research with these results will further evaluate the prognostic capacity of the TBI urinary signature as subjects are followed out one year from their injury.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)


Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Andrew Ottens


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

Diagnostics of Brain Rehabilitation