RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – BRAINBox solutions, along with Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, are hoping to better diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries in elderly patients.

The two systems are conducting the study thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

BRAINBox is aRichmond-based biotechnology company that focuses on traumatic brain injury.

“It’s the depth and breadth of these kinds of collaborations that really give us a chance to change practice in medicine,” Donna Edmonds, BRAINBox CEO, told 8News.

Doctors say older patients have the highest rate of brain injuries, but current testing methods only detect them roughly seven to eight percent of the time.

“Even when the CT scan is normal, it can lead to really devastating long term effects including worsening dementia, Parkinson’s,” Dr. Damon Kuehl, Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine for Carilion Clinic, said.

The plan is to design a new panel of blood markers and follow 300 patients who have head trauma over the next two years.

The research will happen in two phases. The first will enroll patients and design cognitive testing to identify brain injuries. The second phase will determine the tests’ accuracy.

“We could provide a bedside diagnostic test that says, regardless of their imaging, that we can diagnose a brain injury, not just head trauma,” Kuehl said.

“That would then automatically trigger therapies for them,” he added. “We know patients who actually have a diagnosis actually recover better because they probably have more coordinated care.”

This isn’t the first study the two systems have worked on together. They are currently working on an adult and pediatric study.

Patients for the geriatric study will start to enroll this summer.