A group of researchers from Boston University and Mayo Clinic Arizona has discovered an effective diagnostic test for detecting the neurodegenerative illness chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is generally appeared in military veterans and athletes.
Researchers conducted a trial PET scan of living former NFL players and observed that tau proteins were deposited abnormally in their brains. Based on the trial, it was confirmed that high concentrations of tau proteins found in the brains of former NFL players compared to the people of similar age who were not sportspersons. The research is recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The dense accumulation of tau proteins in abnormal regions of the brain is connected with cognitive and behavioral alterations causing memory loss, depression, and decline in decision-making ability. The research findings revealed that people who played tackle football for a quite long time had higher tau protein levels in their brains. However, no evidence was found that higher levels of tau proteins affect moods, behaviors, and cognitive performances.
Researchers administered a pair of PET scans for comparative examination of 26 ex-NFL players showing symptoms associated with CTE and 31 men of same age group without symptoms or previous records of traumatic brain injuries. Before this discovery, researchers were able to detect tau proteins in the brain through the postmortem reports.
In the first scan, participants were injected with a flortaucipir marker that binds to tau proteins and makes them visible through PET cameras. In the second scan, they were given an amyloid marker, which makes plaque accumulation visible that is usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
By the analysis of both the scanning reports, researchers concluded that symptoms appeared in former NFL subjects most probably were not due to Alzheimer’s.
Other studies and researches have already been conducted, in which scientists used MRI scanning and blood markers, along with other techniques.