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Military personnel, football players show similar signs of CTE in scans

UCLA researchers found military personnel who suffered head trauma, and reported memory and mood problems, had similar changes in their brains to retired football players with CTE.

By
Allen Cone
Researchers compared the brain scans of Alzheimer patients (L), retired football players (C) and military personnel (R). Colors toward the red end of the scale indicate a higher concentration of the tracer used to determine the presence of abnormal proteins. Photo courtesy of UCLA
Researchers compared the brain scans of Alzheimer patients (L), retired football players (C) and military personnel (R). Colors toward the red end of the scale indicate a higher concentration of the tracer used to determine the presence of abnormal proteins. Photo courtesy of UCLA

July 18 (UPI) -- UCLA researchers found military personnel who suffered head trauma, and reported memory and mood issues, had brain scans similar to retired football players with CTE.

The researchers examined the brains of 15 former NFL players with memory and mood problems and seven military personnel -- five veterans and two active duty members -- with mild traumatic brain injuries as well as memory or mood complaints. The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is thought to be caused in people who have had multiple head injuries. In later stages, CTE can lead to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

CTE can can only be diagnosed after death in an examination of brain tissue that reveals clumps of a protein called tau, which kills brain cells.

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The researchers found the pattern of abnormal protein distribution in living patients was consistent with the tau distribution in the autopsy cases.

The researchers studied a molecular tracer that binds with tau, as well as another abnormal protein called amyloid. When an FDDNP substance is given intravenously, the tracer shows up in brain scans, displaying the location and extent of abnormal proteins in the brain.

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The results were compared with 24 people who had Alzheimer's disease and 28 people without cognitive problems.

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In the study, the researchers noted the "potential value of FDDNP-PET for early detection and treatment monitoring in varied at-risk populations."

The researchers said they want to conduct larger studies using FDDNP and brain scans in people at risk for CTE to determined the usefulness of FDDNP as a diagnostic tool.

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