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Research Highlights

About NINR Research Highlights

NINR-supported researchers explore and address some of the most important challenges affecting the health of the American people. NINR Research Highlights feature research accomplishments from the community of NINR-supported scientists across the U.S.

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Identification of a Potential Blood-based Biomarker for Diagnosing Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

Researchers at NINR have shown that a protein known as GFAP could be used as a blood-based biomarker for detecting mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Annually, millions of individuals experience TBIs through falls, sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and many other causes. Currently, brain imaging is regularly used in the medical community to detect and assess mild TBIs. However, the availability of a blood-based test to detect milder forms of brain injury could allow accurate, less expensive, and faster treatment for these patients. These new findings with GFAP could lead to the development of a much-needed blood test to improve the ability of clinicians to quickly diagnose and treat mild TBIs as an alternative or in combination with brain imaging.

Gill J, Latour L, Diaz-Arrastia R, Motamedi V, Turtzo C, Shahim P, Mondello S, DeVoto C, Veras E, Hanlon D, Song L, Jeromin A. Glial fibrillary acidic protein elevations relate to neuroimaging abnormalities after mild TBI. Neurology. 2018 Oct 9; 91(15):e1385-e1389. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000006321. Epub 2018 Sep 12 PMID:30209234

Palliative Care Intervention Improves Well-being of Cancer Patients and their Caregivers in Community Practice Setting

Palliative care is an important component of treatment for cancer patients and their family caregivers. However, most palliative care interventions have been tested in controlled settings. A recent study supported in part by NINR assessed patient and caregiver outcomes following a palliative care intervention used in a large integrated health care system. Compared to those receiving usual care, patients receiving the intervention showed improved physical, emotional, and functional well-being. Caregivers also showed improved well-being and were better prepared to care for their seriously ill loved one in their home. The research demonstrates that such an intervention can be successfully incorporated into practice at a large health care facility.

Nguyen HQ, Ruel N, Macias M, Borneman T, Alian M, Becher M, Lee K, Ferrell B. Translation and Evaluation of a Lung Cancer, Palliative Care Intervention for Community Practice. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2018 Nov;56(5):709-718. PMID:30076966

Brain Imaging Shows that Damage Caused by Sleep Apnea Differs by Sex

Researchers aimed to determine the sites and extent of structural changes to the brain’s hippocampus in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which could have the potential to identify localized structural damage linked with OSA symptoms. They found structural changes to the hippocampus in OSA patients compared to controls, with hippocampal volume increasing in certain areas, while decreasing in others. These changes differed in males and females, which could contribute to sex-related differences in OSA symptoms. The study highlights the need to consider sex as a biological variable in research on OSA.

Macey PM, Prasad JP, Ogren JA, et al. Sex-specific hippocampus volume changes in obstructive sleep apnea. Neuroimage Clin. 2018;20:305-317. PMID: 30101062

Micronutrient Deficiencies are Associated with Poor Heart Failure Outcomes

A study funded by NINR and other organizations provides evidence that the diet quality of patients with heart failure plays an important and independent role in heart failure outcomes. Heart failure patients classified as having a high micronutrient deficiency were significantly more likely to experience hospitalization or death during the study period than those patients with low micronutrient deficiency. The results, combined with previous studies, also suggested that patients with comorbid depressive symptoms may be particularly vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies and face shortened event‐free survival.

Lennie TA, Andreae C, Rayens MK, Song EK, Dunbar SB, Pressler SJ, Heo S, Kim J, Moser DK.  Micronutrient Deficiency Independently Predicts Time to Event in Patients With Heart Failure.  J Am Heart Assoc 2018 Sep 4;7(17). PMID:30371170

Microbiome Associated with Differences in Symptoms and Quality of Life in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Researchers supported by NINR conducted a study of the gut microbiomes of 76 women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Each woman completed a 28-day diary that included data on symptoms experienced, as well as a quality-of-life questionnaire. The study found that lower microbial diversity was associated with increased extraintestinal pain and worse quality of life. They also found that specific types of microbiota were associated with decreased pain and improved quality of life. The findings advance our understanding of the biological underpinnings of adverse symptoms, such as pain, experienced by individuals with IBS, knowledge necessary for improving quality of life for the 10-20% of adults who experience symptoms of IBS.

Hollister EB, Cain KC, Shulman RJ, Jarrett ME, Burr RL, Ko C, Zia J, Han CJ, Heitkemper MM. Relationships of Microbiome Markers with Extraintestinal, Psychological Distress, and Gastrointestinal Symptoms, and Quality of Life in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2018 Aug 24. PMID:30148765

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