Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a devastating degenerative brain disease caused by the buildup of tau. This protein is produced when the brain has suffered injury, such as a concussion. Repeated head blows can trigger the production of more tau, resulting in CTE. Several former National Football League (NFL) players have been diagnosed with CTE posthumously, since the disease can only be diagnosed during an autopsy.
But researchers with Mount Sinai in New York City have found that a type of imaging called tau radiotracer may be able to detect tau and enable doctors to diagnose CTE while patients are still alive.
Tau radiotracer, made by Avid Pharmaceuticals, has been used to image tau buildup in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers set out to see if tau radiotracer with PET imaging could show where tau was accumulating in the brains of patients suspected to have CTE, as well as identify the one marker that distinguishes CTE from Alzheimer’s and other tauopathies – the deposition of tau in cortical gray matter/white matter junctions.
A 39-year-old retired NFL player who had suffered 22 concussions during his 11-year career – four of which resulted in the loss of consciousness – heard of the research and volunteered. He was experiencing behavioral and cognitive problems that had progressed over time, and was given a probable diagnoses of CTE five years ago by Robert Cantu, MD, of Boston University’s CTE study group. The tau radiotracer found that the patient had a pattern of tau deposition in the brain that was consistent with CTE, giving stronger evidence of the former football player’s possible CTE diagnosis.
The next step for researchers is to conduct a trial using taxanes – a chemotherapy agent – in patients with confirmed CTE based on tau imaging. Animal studies have shown the medications may help improve symptoms of CTE.
Source: MedPage Today