YOUR HEALTH: Detecting life-threatening football brain injuries earlier

SAN DIEGO – Steve Jordan works for a real estate development company.   But for 13 years he played for the Minnesota Vikings.

His son, Cameron, plays for the Saints.    That's why Steve was quick to volunteer for a study to detect CTE.

"By trying to find bio-markers or whatever it is to detect CTE, you're just preparing people to know how to address it as they go on," explained Jordan.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a past of brain trauma.

Right now, an autopsy is the only way to confirm C-T-E... but the test researchers are working on, could change that.

"It's a biomarker we see in the circulatory system, and it seems to be at very elevated levels in former NFL subjects as compared to controls," said Jim Joyce, CEO of Aethlon Medical.  He's also a former pro football player for the Denver Broncos, was inspired to launch this study by Tom McHale, an NFL player diagnosed with CTE after his death.

A biomarker called tausome carries tau protein in the body.  With CTE, tau tangles, causing neurological damage.

CTE can only be diagnosed after death through brain tissue analysis.

  • The brain tissue is sliced and researchers use special chemicals to make the tau clumps visible
  • Those clumps are then searched for any unique patterns linked to CTE
  • This can take several months to complete an analysis and is not a part of a normal autopsy
  • Until recently, there were few doctors who knew how to properly diagnose CTE

Joyce and researcher Kendall van Keuren Jensen previously participated in an NIH study showing that NFL players had nine times as much tau as did a control group.

Alzheimer's patients had ten.

"Currently there are no treatments for CTE, but there are drugs and things that people are using for Alzheimer's disease that may diminish the amount of tau and so maybe those things could be used in CTE," explained Dr. Van Keuren-Jensen.

Steve Jordan has offered to be one of up to 200 N-F-L players in the study.

"I think we're going to help ourselves get closer to identification and therefore, hopefully, a cure."

NEW OUTLOOK:  There has been a collaborative effort since 2015 to develop diagnostic criteria for CTE, so that more doctors can properly diagnose this condition.   Neurologist Dr. Samuel Gandy at Mount Sinai is researching a molecule called ligand.   By linking ligand to a radioactive atom and then injecting it into the patient, Gandy could use a PET scanner to track its progress through the brain.   In addition, CEO of Aethlon Medical Jim Joyce and his team are looking into making a biomarker that can diagnose CTE without autopsy.   In this first NIH study about CTE, the researchers were able to discover a new biomarker, called TauSome.   The team wants to qualify this biomarker and use it to diagnose and control CTE in living individuals.   (Sources: https://concussionfoundation.org/CTE-resources/what-is-CTE
https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/27/cte-diagnosis-concussion/)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.