Functional outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI) vary widely across patients with apparently similar injuries. This variability hinders prognosis, therapy, and clinical innovation. Recently, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) that influence outcome after TBI have been identified. These discoveries create opportunities to personalize therapy and stratify clinical trials. Both of these changes would propel clinical innovation in the field. This review focuses on one of most well-characterized of these SNPs, the Val66Met SNP in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene. This SNP influences neurological function in healthy subjects as well as TBI patients and patients with similar acute insults to the central nervous system. A host of other patient-specific factors including ethnicity, age, gender, injury severity, and post-injury time point modulate this influence. These interactions confound efforts to define a simple relationship between this SNP and TBI outcomes. The opportunities and challenges associated with personalizing TBI therapy around this SNP and other similar SNPs are discussed in light of these results.
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