Systems biology approaches for discovering biomarkers for traumatic brain injury

J Neurotrauma. 2013 Jul 1;30(13):1101-16. doi: 10.1089/neu.2012.2631.


The rate of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in service members with wartime injuries has risen rapidly in recent years, and complex, variable links have emerged between TBI and long-term neurological disorders. The multifactorial nature of TBI secondary cellular response has confounded attempts to find cellular biomarkers for its diagnosis and prognosis or for guiding therapy for brain injury. One possibility is to apply emerging systems biology strategies to holistically probe and analyze the complex interweaving molecular pathways and networks that mediate the secondary cellular response through computational models that integrate these diverse data sets. Here, we review available systems biology strategies, databases, and tools. In addition, we describe opportunities for applying this methodology to existing TBI data sets to identify new biomarker candidates and gain insights about the underlying molecular mechanisms of TBI response. As an exemplar, we apply network and pathway analysis to a manually compiled list of 32 protein biomarker candidates from the literature, recover known TBI-related mechanisms, and generate hypothetical new biomarker candidates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Systems Biology / methods*


  • Biomarkers