Researchers identify possible biomarker for diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy during life

September 26, 2017, Boston University School of Medicine

A new biomarker (CCL11) for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been discovered that may allow the disease to be diagnosed during life for the first time.

The findings, which appear in the journal PLOS ONE, might also help distinguish CTE from Alzheimer's disease, which often presents with symptoms similar to CTE and also can only be diagnosed post-mortem. The ability to diagnose CTE in living individuals will allow for research into prevention and treatment of the disease.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS) studied the brains of 23 former college and . They compared them to the brains of 50 non-athletes with Alzheimer's disease and 18 non-athlete controls.

They observed that CCL11 levels were normal in the brains of the non-athlete controls and non-athletes with Alzheimer's disease, but were significantly elevated in the brains of individuals with CTE. They then compared the degree of elevation of CCL11 to the number of years those individuals played football and found that there was a positive correlation between the CCL11 levels and the number of years played.

The researchers also took post-mortem samples of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from four of the control individuals, seven of the individuals with CTE and four of the individuals with Alzheimer's disease, and found that CCL11 levels in the CSF were similarly normal in the control and Alzheimer's individuals, but elevated in those individuals with CTE, suggesting that the presence of CCL11 in the CSF might be able to assist in the detection of CTE during life.

"Not only did this research show the potential for CTE diagnosis during life, but it also offers a possible mechanism for distinguishing between CTE and other diseases. By making it possible to distinguish between normal individuals, individuals with Alzheimer's disease, and CTE therapies can become more targeted and hopefully more effective," explained first author Jonathan Cherry, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in neurology at BUSM.

"The findings of this study are the early steps toward identifying CTE during life. Once we can successfully diagnose CTE in living individuals, we will be much closer to discovering treatments for those who suffer from it," said senior author Ann McKee, MD, Director of BU's CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology at VABHS.

Future studies are needed to determine whether increased levels of CCL11 are an early or late finding in the CTE disease process and whether CCL11 levels might be able to predict the severity of an individual's disease.

CTE is a progressive degenerative of the found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head. Although the incidence and prevalence of CTE is unknown, it has been diagnosed in former amateur and professional contact sport athletes as well as military veterans. Given the millions of contact sport athletes and military service members exposed to repetitive head impacts each year, CTE has become a major public health concern.

Explore further: Study finds repetitive brain injuries may accelerate aging, dementia risk

Related Stories

Study finds repetitive brain injuries may accelerate aging, dementia risk

May 12, 2015
Repetitive head injuries that occur during contact sports and military service may accelerate the aging process by increasing the build-up of beta-amyloid in the brain, leading to worse disease and an increased likelihood ...

Connection between brain inflammation and CTE identified

November 2, 2016
For the first time, researchers have shown that inflammation in the brain may have direct involvement in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In addition, they found that the number of years one plays ...

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Investigating plasma levels as a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease

April 18, 2016
A Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) paper published in Current Alzheimer Research presents the first detailed study of the relationship between plasma levels of two amyloid beta peptides (Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42), brain ...

Disease caused by repeat brain trauma in athletes may affect memory, mood, behavior

August 21, 2013
New research suggests that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease associated with repeat brain trauma including concussions in athletes, may affect people in two major ways: initially affecting behavior or ...

Recommended for you

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Discovery of inner ear function may improve diagnosis of hearing impairment

October 15, 2018
Results from a research study published in Nature Communications show how the inner ear processes speech, something that has until now been unknown. The authors of the report include researchers from Linköping University, ...

Widespread errors in 'proofreading' cause inherited blindness

October 12, 2018
Mistakes in "proofreading" the genetic code of retinal cells is the cause of a form of inherited blindness, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in splicing factors.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.