By Sy Mukherjee
February 15, 2018

On Wednesday, the FDA gave marketing authorization to the first-ever blood test for concussions, from private biotech Banyan Biomarkers. The Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator can be used to test for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI, more commonly called a concussion), and could slash the number of unnecessary medical imaging procedures that people with head injuries have to take. And it’s just the latest example of technology striving to revolutionize how we diagnose diseases and injuries by making tests less invasive (and health care less costly).

The Brain Trauma Indicator can help doctors figure out whether or not someone with a concussion needs a computed tomography, or CT, scan to detect brain tissue damage. A sizeable number do not, as the FDA points out.

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“Helping to deliver innovative testing technologies that minimize health impacts to patients while still providing accurate and reliable results to inform appropriate evaluation and treatment is an FDA priority,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb in a statement. “Today’s action supports the FDA’s Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging—an effort to ensure that each patient is getting the right imaging exam, at the right time, with the right radiation dose.”

There’s also an effort underway in the life sciences to reduce the need for other invasive procedures, such as surgical tissue biopsies for cancer. Companies like Guardant Health and Grail are developing so-called “liquid biopsies” which can detect tiny traces of cancer DNA circulating in the blood. The hope is to one day create a simple blood test that can help screen for cancer while people take their annual physicals.

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