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New Imaging Method Diagnoses CTE

Posted on January 23 2013

Much has been discovered about the detrimental effects and frequent cases of concussions in professional athletes. Yet, one elusive condition known as CTE has only been diagnosable upon autopsy, until now. CTE is short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition that causes depression, severe mood swings, and dementia. The condition is directly related to repeated concussions, head injuries commonly sustained by athletes performing in full-contact sports. Nearly 35 former NFL players have been diagnosed with CTE after their deaths. Additionally, CTE has been known to affect NHL players as well. Two notable athletes who suffered from undiagnosed CTE include former Buffalo Sabres player Rick Martin who died at the age of 59 in 2012 and Junior Seau, the popular linebacker who committed suicide this past May. Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles have been able to use brain imaging to identify the build-up of tau proteins, which is an symptom of the condition. The study looked at 5 retired NFL players including Wayne Carter, age 65 who suffered 3 concussions throughout his career; two during his tenure with the NFL as a backup quarterback. All participants displayed symptoms of the CTE condition, making them excellent subjects for the study. Using a PET scan, researchers were able to use radioisotope called FDNNP and inject it into the participants. FDDNP binds itself to both amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles. All participants spent time being scanned by the PET scanner and the results opened a whole new door for these athletes. The scan was able to identify the radioisotope which had clung onto the plaques and tangles. Athletes that experienced more concussions held higher FDNNP levels than men in a healthier state. Additionally, higher concentration levels were found in the areas of the brain that control memory, learning, emotions, response, and both physical and mental behaviors. These binding patterns of the radioisotope mimicked the tau deposits found during CTE autopsy. This is the first study of its kind, allowing for diagnosis and treatment while the patient is still alive. Researchers are excited about the promises that this holds for future athletes and those who suffer damaging concussions. Now with a method for early diagnosis, many experts are excited for the opportunity to treat living humans living with CTE. Many athletes should be excited to considering the only previous method of diagnosis was death. Now the potential for a normal life after developing CTE is there, and this imaging can open many more doors for treatment of concussion ravaged brains. Sources: CTV News - http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/new-method-could-spot-cte-brain-disease-in-living-patients-1.1125840 New York Times - Pro-Football - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/sports/football/study-suggests-pet-scans-may-identify-cte-in-living-patients.html?_r=0 ESPN - Outside the Lines - http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/8867972/ucla-study-finds-signs-cte-living-former-nfl-players-first-time

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