Alterations in plasma microRNA and protein levels in war veterans with chronic mild traumatic brain injury.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of neurotrauma


Blast-related mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is considered the 'signature' injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Identifying biomarkers that could aid in diagnosis and assessment of chronic mTBI is urgently needed, as little progress has been made toward identifying blood-based biomarkers of repetitive mTBI in the chronic state. Addressing this knowledge gap is especially important in the population of military veterans who are receiving assessment and care often years after their last exposure. Circulating microRNAs (miRNAs), especially those encapsulated in extracellular vesicles (EVs), have gained interest as a source of biomarkers for neurological conditions. To identify biomarkers for chronic mTBI, we used next generation sequencing (NGS) to analyze miRNAs in plasma and plasma-derived EVs from 27 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with blast-related chronic mTBI, 11 deployed veteran non-TBI controls, and 31 civilian controls. We identified 32 miRNAs in plasma and 45 miRNAs in EVs that significantly changed in the chronic mTBI cohort compared to control groups. These miRNAs were predominantly associated with pathways involved in neuronal function, vascular remodeling, blood-brain barrier integrity, and neuroinflammation. In addition, the plasma proteome was analyzed and showed the concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP) and membrane metalloendopeptidase (MME) were elevated in chronic mTBI samples. These plasma miRNAs and proteins could potentially be used as biomarkers and provide insights on the molecular processes associated with the long-term health outcomes associated with blast-related chronic mTBI.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)


Institute for Systems Biology