Hernandez's last days were marked by aggression, memory loss and impulsiveness, but it was only after his death that his loved ones got some insight into why. The youngest ex-player diagnosed with CTE in the study was 49 at the time of his death and another was 53.
Reflecting on the results, she said: 'The findings of this study are the early steps toward identifying CTE during life. They found that CCL11 levels in the CSF were similarly normal in the control individuals and people with Alzheimer's, but elevated in those people with CTE.
Tuesday's findings, which the university announced are published in the journal PLOS ONE, also may help physicians and researchers determine the differences between CTE and Alzheimer's, "which often presents with symptoms similar to CTE and also can only be diagnosed post-mortem". This, in turn, could transform how doctors treat the condition, and give people ways to protect themselves from further damage, McKee says.
CTE is linked to the repetitive hits to the head experienced by football players, but as of now it can be definitively diagnosed only after a player has died.
The protein in question, CLL11, is made in the choroid plexus, the part of the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid. They compared them to the brains of 50 nonathletes with Alzheimer's disease and 18 nonathlete controls. These levels were even higher for players who had played the game longer. Furthermore, they found that the more years someone played football, the higher amount of the protein. Numerous studies have been done over the years to analyze possible effects of playing sports like football on the head. However, the researchers found no correlation between levels of CCL11 and the number of recorded concussions a player had experienced. But that was always just one step toward being able to properly diagnose CTE in patients while they are still alive. "It's most likely that it will be a panel of biomarkers".
"This is something new", said Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and senior author of the study. "Once we can successfully diagnose CTE in living individuals, we will be much closer to discovering treatments for those who suffer from it", McKee said. "A clear organic/biologic diagnosis disarms the sometimes automatic, but inaccurate, presumptions about laziness, personality, or lack of willpower".
'It needs to be repeated, especially on living people.
I won't pretend to understand exactly what that means, but the basic takeaway here is this: if researchers or doctors can pick up on anything that suggests a person is impacted by CTE, this should dramatically lead to protecting that person's long-term health before it is too late.
Scientists have discovered the first ever method that could diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) during life. Defective tau is associated with CTE, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Because CTE is so hard to diagnose, there is no way of estimating how many people in the US may have it.