Investigation of serum tau as a biomarker in pediatric TBI

Principal Investigator(s) Wellington, Cheryl

Investigation of serum tau as a biomarker in pediatric TBI

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is among the most common reason that children visit the Emergency Department, with approximately 50,000 visits every year in Canada. Within the pediatric group, young children aged 0-4 years and adolescents aged 15-19 years are most likely to sustain a TBI. The leading causes of TBI in children are motor vehicle accidents, sport accidents, and assault. TBI spans a wide range of severity, from mild concussions to lifethreatening injuries that require neurosurgery. Although the severe TBI cases are easily identified, we lack ways to accurately diagnose mild TBI especially in young children, to identify those children who can be safely sent home to fully recover from those that may need additional medical care and follow-up. Our project will test whether a protein called tau can be measured accurately enough in blood samples to diagnose a TBI. Tau is a protein made only in the brain that can be detected in blood using a very sensitive method called Simoa. Thus far blood tau levels have been only measured in adult samples. We will be the first to use Simoa to measure tau in blood samples already obtained from 185 pediatric TBI compared to 300 normal, healthy children. The large number of samples immediately available will allow us to determine whether blood tau levels are likely to be useful to diagnose a TBI in children. We will then expand the study to determine if separate tests (for tau or other markers) are needed for males versus females or specific age groups. Our study will therefore set the stage towards validating a blood test for pediatric TBI diagnosis across Canada.


Canadian Institute of Health Research; Canadian Traumatic brain injury Research Consortium.


  • Khosrow Adeli
  • Jamie Hutchison