Boston researchers closer to diagnosing CTE in living patients

(WPRI) — Researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine and VA Boston Health Care System believe they have found a new biomarker that may allow chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to be diagnosed while patients are still alive.

Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

CTE is a degenerative brain condition linked to concussions that currently can only be detected after someone has died.

Being able to diagnose CTE in living athletes could save lives. Patients who became aware of the disease could work to avoid head trauma, and learn how to treat some of CTE’s symptoms, including depression, suicide, memory loss and aggression.

Researchers studied 23 former football players’ brains, comparing them to the brains of 50 non-athletes with Alzheimer’s Disease and a control group of 18 non-athletes’ brains.

The scientists found a biomarker ( CCL11) with normal levels in the brains of the control group and non-athlete’s with Alzheimer’s, but significantly higher levels of that same protein in the brains of the athletes with CTE.

“The hope is to be able to diagnosis it before people have any symptoms whatsoever, and then we can treat it and cure it,” said Postdoctoral Fellow of Neurology Jonathan Cherry. “That’s the long term, end of the road goal for us.”

The scientists stress that more research is still needed, and even if there is a correlation, they don’t yet know if the increased levels of the protein  CCL11 are an early or a late detection of CTE.