Plasma calcitonin gene–related peptide and nerve growth factor as headache and pain biomarkers in recently deployed soldiers with and without a recent concussion

Ann I. Scher*, James S. McGinley, Lyndsey R. VanDam, Amanda M. Campbell, Xiyun Chai, Billy Collins, Scott A. Klimp, Alan G. Finkel, Karen Schwab, Richard B. Lipton, Kirk W. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to characterize the utility of calcitonin gene–related peptide (CGRP) and nerve growth factor (NGF) as potential biomarkers for headache and pain disorders in the post–military deployment setting. Background: The need to improve recognition, assessment, and prognoses of individuals with posttraumatic headache or other pain has increased interest in the potential of CGRP and NGF as biomarkers. Methods: The Warrior Strong Study (NCT01847040) is an observational longitudinal study of United States–based soldiers who had recently returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq from 2009 to 2014. The present nested cross-sectional analysis uses baseline data collected from soldiers returning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Results: In total, 264 soldiers (mean (standard deviation [SD] age 28.1 [6.4] years, 230/264 [87.1%] men, 171/263 [65.0%] White) were analyzed. Mean (SD) plasma levels of CGRP were 1.3 (1.1) pg/mL and mean levels of NGF were 1.4 (0.4) pg/mL. Age was negatively correlated with NGF (−0.01 pg/mL per year, p = 0.007) but was not associated with CGRP. Men had higher mean (SD) CGRP plasma levels than women (1.4 95% confidence interval [CI; 1.2] vs. 0.9 95% CI [0.5] pg/mL, p < 0.002, Kruskal–Wallis test). CGRP levels were lower in participants who had a headache at the time of the blood draw (1.0 [0.6] pg/mL vs. 1.4 [1.2] pg/mL, p = 0.024). NGF was lower in participants with continuous pain (all types; 1.2 [0.4] vs. 1.4 [0.4] pg/mL, p = 0.027) and was lower in participants with traumatic brain injury (TBI) + posttraumatic headache (PTH) versus TBI without PTH (1.3 [0.3] vs. 1.4 [0.4] pg/mL, p = 0.021). Otherwise, CGRP and NGF were not associated with migraine-like headache, TBI status, or headache burden as measured by the number of medical encounters in crude or adjusted models. Conclusion: In this exploratory study, plasma levels of NGF and CGRP showed promise as biomarkers for headache and other types of pain. These findings need to be replicated in other cohorts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1240-1250
Number of pages11
JournalHeadache
Volume63
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • biomarker
  • calcitonin gene–related peptide
  • concussion
  • mild traumatic brain injury
  • nerve growth factor
  • posttraumatic headache

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