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Genetic Variants and Persistent Impairment Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review is to systematically assess primary research publications on known genetic variants, which modify the risk for symptoms or dysfunction persisting 30 days or more following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

SUMMARY OF REVIEW: A search of PubMed and Embase from inception through June 2022 identified 42 studies that associated genetic variants with the presence of symptoms or cognitive dysfunction 30 days or more following mTBI. Risk of bias was assessed for each publication using the Newcastle Ottawa Scale (NOS). Fifteen of the 22 studies evaluating apolipoprotein E (APOE) ɛ4 concluded that it was associated with worse outcomes and 4 of the 8 studies investigating the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) reported the Val66Met allele was associated with poorer outcomes. The review also identified 12 studies associating 28 additional variants with mTBI outcomes. Of these, 8 references associated specific variants with poorer outcomes. Aside from analyses comparing carriers and noncarriers of APOE ɛ4 and BDNF Val66Met, most of the reviewed studies were too dissimilar, particularly in terms of specific outcome measures but also in genes examined, to allow for direct comparisons of their findings. Moreover, these investigations were observational and subject to varying degrees of bias.

CONCLUSIONS: The most consistent finding across articles was that APOE ɛ4 is associated with persistent post-mTBI impairment (symptoms or cognitive dysfunction) more than 30 days after mTBI. The sparsity of other well-established and consistent findings in the mTBI literature should motivate larger, prospective studies, which characterize the risk for persistent impairment with standardized outcomes in mTBI posed by other genetic variants influencing mTBI recovery.

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