A brain-scanning approach could one day help discover people with illnesses linked to concussions in football and other contact sports, where most diseases are hard to detect, being diagnosed only after death, a small research announced.
Brain scans of 14 retired football players whom could suffer from the condition, called CTE, revealed an abnormal protein pattern, which resembled that found at autopsy of a former footballer who died because of it.
CTE means chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is relatively common among athletes or others who have suffered repeated head concussions or have received other blows to the head. It is a main factor for progressive brain degeneration, while its symptoms include confusion, memory loss, depression, aggression and progressive dementia.
The scientists still haven’t found a cure for the disease. The brain-scanning technique could increase the possibility of discovering the illness early on, when the chances for the success of experimental treatments would be greatest, according to study authors. It could also help athletes retire sooner from sport, before irreversibly damaging their brains, explained Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Illinois.
The results of the research he co-authored were released Monday at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study concentrated its attention on 14 retired football players. One of them was suffering from dementia, 12 had a mild cognitive impairment, a form of mental functioning deficit, while the other didn’t show any obvious symptoms. All the participants had a history of blows to the head and repeated concussions.
They were injected with a substance that shows the deposits of an abnormal protein which has been often found in CTE at autopsies. The substance makes the proteins visible at the PET scan.
According to Dr. Joseph Maroon, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the results are “a major step forward in detecting CTE prior to death.” The scientist added the results can be very helpful in the future, making way for larger studies to investigate the approach’s’ usefulness.
The new technique could bring out a more definitive solution to the issue when scientists will discover the binding substance that is found in the abnormal protein pattern.
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