Neuronally-derived tau is increased in experienced breachers and is associated with neurobehavioral symptoms

Katie A. Edwards, Kisha Greer, Jacqueline Leete, Chen Lai, Christina Devoto, Bao Xi Qu, Angela M. Yarnell, Elena Polejaeva, Kristine C. Dell, Matthew L. LoPresti, Peter Walker, Eric M. Wassermann, Walter Carr, James R. Stone, Stephen T. Ahlers, Rany Vorn, Carina Martin, Jessica M. Gill*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Military and law enforcement breachers are exposed to many low-level blasts during their training and occupational experiences in which they detonate explosives to force entry into secured structures. There is a concern that exposure to these repetitive blast events in career breachers could result in cumulative neurological effects. This study aimed to determine concentrations of neurofilament light (NF-L), tau, and amyloid-beta 42 (Aβ42) in serum and in neuronal-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) in an experienced breacher population, and to examine biomarker associations with neurobehavioral symptoms. Thirty-four participants enrolled in the study: 20 experienced breachers and 14 matched military or civilian law enforcement controls. EV tau concentrations were significantly elevated in experienced breachers (0.3301 ± 0.5225) compared to controls (−0.4279 ± 0.7557; F = 10.43, p = 0.003). No statistically significant changes were observed in EV levels of NF-L or Aβ42 or in serum levels of NF-L, tau, or Aβ42 (p’s > 0.05). Elevated EV tau concentrations correlated with increased Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory (NSI) score in experienced breachers (r = 0.596, p = 0.015) and predicted higher NSI score (F(1,14) = 7.702, p = 0.015, R2 = 0.355). These findings show that neuronal-derived EV concentrations of tau are significantly elevated and associated with neurobehavioral symptoms in this sample of experienced breachers who have a history of many low-level blast exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19527
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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