Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has a complex pathology in which the initial injury releases damage associated proteins that exacerbate the neuroinflammatory response during the chronic secondary injury period. One of the major pathological players in the inflammatory response after TBI is the inflammasome. Increased levels of inflammasome proteins during the acute phase after TBI are associated with worse functional outcomes. Previous studies reveal that the level of inflammasome proteins in biological fluids may be used as promising new biomarkers for the determination of TBI functional outcomes. In this study, we provide further evidence that inflammatory cytokines and inflammasome proteins in serum may be used to determine injury severity and predict pathological outcomes. In this study, we analyzed blood serum from TBI patients and respective controls utilizing Simple Plex inflammasome and V-PLEX inflammatory cytokine assays. We performed statistical analyses to determine which proteins were significantly elevated in TBI individuals. The receiver operating characteristics (ROC) were determined to obtain the area under the curve (AUC) to establish the potential fit as a biomarker. Potential biomarkers were then compared to documented patient Glasgow coma scale scores via a correlation matrix and a multivariate linear regression to determine how respective biomarkers are related to the injury severity and pathological outcome. Inflammasome proteins and inflammatory cytokines were elevated after TBI, and the apoptosis-associated speck like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC), interleukin (IL)-18, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-4 and IL-6 were the most reliable biomarkers. Additionally, levels of these proteins were correlated with known clinical indicators of pathological outcome, such as the Glasgow coma scale (GCS). Our results show that inflammatory cytokines and inflammasome proteins are promising biomarkers for determining pathological outcomes after TBI. Additionally, levels of biomarkers could potentially be utilized to determine a patient's injury severity and subsequent pathological outcome. These findings show that inflammation-associated proteins in the blood are reliable biomarkers of injury severity that can also be used to assess the functional outcomes of TBI patients.
Keywords: biomarkers; brain injury; cytokines; inflammasome; inflammation; interleukin.