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Arizona State University researchers make breakthrough in detecting CTE

Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 19:23:24-04

TEMPE, AZ — Arizona researchers have collaborated to discover new techniques in detecting CTE in living patients.

Depression, anxiety, and memory loss are all symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

According to ASU Assistant Research Professor Diego Mastroeni, CTE is a degenerative brain disease that arises from repetitive concussive hits.

Over 50 professional football players that have died and donated their brains to science have tested positive for CTE, but endless cases go unaccounted.

“The main problem with detecting CTE now is that you really can’t detect it unless the individual has passed on,” said Mastroeni. “The only way to detect now is at autopsy.”

Arizona researchers from Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic, Brigham, Women’s Hospital, and Avid Radiopharmaceuticals teamed up to make a massive breakthrough in detecting CTE; viewing CTE signatures in the brains of living NFL players.

Using a technique similar to a CAT Scan, they can find certain protein build-ups called tau which is directly related to CTE.

The process known as a PET scan isn't quite ready for the public, but the results of the study's first round are both promising and alarming.

“Almost all thirty NFL players that were on the study had some form of CTE,” said Mastroeni. “The 30 controls did not show any signs of CTE.”

As parents grapple with the idea of letting their children play contact sports, the breakthrough in detecting CTE in a living brain lays the foundation for future research, treatment, and prevention.

“I want everyone to have the information to make the right choice, to make their choice,” said Mastroeni.

Members of this team are linking up with additional researchers on another study being called DIAGNOSE CTE with more information expected to be released early next year.