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Plasma biomarkers associated with deployment trauma and its consequences in post-9/11 era veterans: initial findings from the TRACTS longitudinal cohort

Citation:
Translational Psychiatry 2022; 12, 80 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-022-01853-w
Authored By:
Meghan E. Pierce, Jasmeet Hayes, Bertrand Russell Huber, Andreas Jeromin, Catherine B. Fortier, Jennifer R. Fonda, Heather Lasseter, Lauren Chaby, Regina McGlinchey & William Milberg
Abstract:
Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is among the most common injuries sustained by post-9/11 veterans; however, these injuries often occur within the context of psychological trauma. Blast exposure, even in the absence of a diagnosable TBI, leads to changes in neural connectivity and cognitive functioning. Therefore, considering clinical comorbidities and injury characteristics is critical to understanding the long-term effects of mTBI. Research is moving towards identifying diagnostic and prognostic blood-based biomarkers for TBI; however, few studies include other prevalent clinical and medical comorbidities related to deployment. Here, we present the initial cross-sectional relationships between plasma biomarkers, clinical, and medical comorbidities in a well-characterized longitudinal sample of 550 post-9/11 veteran men and women. We examined biomarkers associated with inflammation (interleukin 6 and 10, tumor necrosis factor α, and eotaxin) and neurodegeneration (neurofilament light, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), tau, brain derived neurotrophic factor, amyloid ß 40 and 42, phosphorylated neurofilament heavy chain, and neuron specific enolase). Univariate analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were conducted to determine mean level differences between close blast (blasts that occur within 0–10 meters) and mTBI groups. Our primary findings were twofold: (1) Inflammatory markers were consistently higher in participants exposed to close blasts and were strongly related to deployment-related psychopathology. (2) GFAP was consistently lower in participants exposed to blast and mTBI and lower GFAP was associated with more severe psychological symptoms. More research is clearly needed; however, our findings indicate that chronic increased inflammation and decreased GFAP may be related to close blast exposure.
Published in:
Translational Psychiatry

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