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Hayes is developing a blood test that will quickly assess the severity of head injuries

Published: June 24 2008

Ron Hayes

Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Neurosurgery
College of Medicine

Parents who watch their children play sports know well the anxious feeling that comes when young athletes knock heads on the playing field.

Worlds away, military medics with no more training than can be crammed into a nine-week course make life-and-death decisions regarding brain injuries, solely based what they see when they flash a light into a soldier’s eyes.

No matter the case, the technology must improve to diagnose traumatic brain injuries, says Ronald L. Hayes, Ph.D., director of the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Studies at UF’s McKnight Brain Institute.

“Traumatic brain injury is a scandalously ignored health problem,” said Hayes, a former fighter pilot in the Virginia Air National Guard. “It’s the biggest killer of kids. This research is where homeland defense provides a service for the soccer mom.”

Hayes works with a team of scientists to develop a blood test that will quickly assess the severity of head wounds. The research is in proteomics, a relatively new field that goes beyond genes and explores the mechanisms of life — the proteins produced by genes to carry out all body functions.

“Proteins are changeable, slippery beasts,” said Hayes. “Any given protein will interact with other proteins to change structure. It morphs to many different types. I remember the first proteomics meeting I ever went to — the sign on the door said, ‘Genes were easy.’”

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