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Saliva can be used to diagnose concussion

The results of a clinical study have confirmed that certain molecules in a patient's saliva can help diagnose concussion more accurately. 

Editor: Aigerim Akhmetova 

Translator: Tursunova Balkadisha 

Author: Bolysbek Dana 



Currently, doctors rely on symptoms and conduct neurocognitive tests to make a diagnosis of concussion. But these methods can be unreliable, as they may be subject to patient or doctor bias. For example, athletes may lie about the severity of symptoms to get back on the field. 


The researchers analyzed the saliva of 538 participants from 11 clinical centers for tiny strands of genetic material called micro-ribonucleic acid (microRNA). These molecules play an important role in cellular processes and are present in large numbers in the brain. Scientists have suggested that due to the presence of cranial nerve branches in the mouth, altered microRNA levels may indicate whether a patient has a concussion. About half of the participants reported a concussion within two weeks of starting the study, while the other half did not, although they had symptoms that mimicked a concussion. 


To evaluate the saliva of half of the participants, the researchers used RNA sequencing. Then, statistical modeling and machine learning were used to identify differences between the RNA profiles of participants with concussion and those without. After discovering which RNA changes to look for, they tested more than 200 additional participants and were able to successfully identify which patients had concussions. The study of saliva was more accurate compared to modern diagnostic methods. Next, the researchers plan to conduct a larger clinical trial to test the method to turn the test into a portable technology that can be used by sports coaches immediately after training.