Sep 28, 2017CTE Research Breakthrough
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine have found a biomarker for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which they hope will enable them to diagnose the disease in people who are still alive. According to The Washington Post, the study looked at 23 brains–18 NFL players, 4 college football players and one other professional football player.
Ann McKee, the director of Boston University’s CTE center and the paper’s author, said she considered the discovery “the first ray of hope” in the effort to learn more about how to combat CTE.
“To me, it feels like maybe now we can start going in the other direction,” she said. “We’ve been going down, and everything has just gotten more and more depressing. And now it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to actually find some answers here.’”
McKee said the findings would need to be validated, and once they were, more research would be necessary to fully understand CTE. In spite of that, she said that the possibility of diagnosing CTE while patients such as football players were alive was a promising one. McKee also said that identifying a unique biomarker for CTE would help distinguish it from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, as well as disprove arguments by those who argue that CTE does not exist.
“This has really been our purpose: to give back to future generations,” McKee said. “It wasn’t just to categorize the disease and to find what these individuals had when they died. It’s really to understand CTE at the molecular and biochemical level, so we can figure out ways to detect it and more importantly, treat it.”
Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, said these findings are “certainly important,” and the NFL will spend $40 million on medical research.
“Research around CTE must continue to move forward and fill in the gaps that remain around this important issue,” McCarthy said. “The NFL is committed to encouraging and supporting scientific research related to the diagnosis and treatment of concussion and associated conditions, including CTE.”
McKee said the research will continue.
“This was the first finding of a really unique component in this disease compared to others and compared to controls, so, yeah, it’s a eureka moment, but we don’t think it’s the end,” McKee said. “We think it’s the beginning.”