Boston University Study Gets Closer to Identifying CTE

Diagnosing CTE in life will lead to treatments for those who suffer from neurodegenerative disease

Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Getty

Researchers from Boston University's School of Medicine announced Tuesday that they discovered a new biomarker for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease found commonly in individuals with a history of repetitive head trauma. The breakthrough, they explained, "may allow the disease to be diagnosed during life for the first time."

"The findings of this study are the early steps toward identifying CTE during life," said study co-author Dr. Ann McKee. "Once we can successfully diagnose CTE in living individuals, we will be much closer to discovering treatments for those who suffer from it." 

The researchers studied the brains of 23 former college and professional football players who were diagnosed with CTE, 50 non-athletes who suffered from Alzheimer's disease and 18 non-athletes who had neither CTE nor Alzheimer's. 

The findings show the new biomarker, CCL11, were significantly elevated in the brains with CTE and were normal in the two others. The data also showed a positive correlation between heightened levels of CCL11 and the amount of years individuals were at risk of repetitive head trauma by specifically playing football.

The next step in the study will 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," McKee said.