Biomarkers for sports concussion

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Medicine and Radiology
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Associate Professor Sandy Shultz 99030268 Personal web page

Project Details

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a serious medical and societal issue. Of particular   concern are individuals at high risk of suffering repetitive mTBI (RmTBI) – such as collision sport athletes – because RmTBI may contribute to chronic neurological impairments and neurodegenerative disease. There is evidence that the long-term adverse effects of RmTBI are due to the recurring insults occurring before the brain has recovered from the initial mTBI and is in a period of increased cerebral vulnerability (ICV). Currently there are no reliable markers that indicate when the brain is no longer in this state of ICV, but the identification of such biomarkers would allow them to be used to guide medical decisions, so as to mitigate the effects of RmTBIs. There are a number of promising mTBI biomarker platforms. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may identify changes after mTBI, and be used to monitor the recovery of these changes. Circulating blood proteins may provide information about the neuropathophysiology, progression, and recovery of mTBI. Telomeres are repetitive non-coding DNA sequences located at the end of linear eukaryotic chromosomes, and our initial studies have found that telomere length (TL) is shortened after mTBI. While each of these advanced platforms has potential as a practical and objective mTBI medical tool, more detailed studies are required to characterise and validate the reliability of these methods in diagnosing mTBI, determining recovery, and preventing the effects of RmTBI. However, due to the mild effects of a single mTBI, the progressive and chronic nature of the effects of RmTBI, and other confounding factors, it is difficult to study this in humans. Alternatively, an animal model of mTBI is a means to conduct rigorous and time- and cost-sensitive studies, and to inform for evidence-based translation of these findings to humans. This project will therefore employ a translational research approach that incorporates a novel rat model and human studies to identify and validate advanced multi-modal MRI, proteomics, and TL biomarkers of mTBI. We have developed an internationally unique awake, closed-head injury (ACHI) rat model of mTBI that mirrors the post-injury sequelae observed in humans with mTBI. We will use this model to identify and characterize the temporal profile of advanced MRI, blood protein, and TL biomarkers that can reliably detect changes and estimate recovery of mTBI in male and female rats. We will also assess these same biomarkers in parallel studies in concussed amateur Australian rules footballers.

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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