UCLA Study Tests for CTE in Living Retired NFL Subjects, Could Be Major Breakthrough in Studying Brain Trauma

By Jason Lisk

CTE is caused by a buildup of a protein named “Tau” in the brain. Previously, the only way to diagnose and test for CTE were post-mortem, as we have seen recently with Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

The UCLA group developed a tau tracer named FDDNP (2-(1-{6-[(2-[F-18]fluoroethyl) (methyl)amino]-2-naphthyl}ethylidene)malononitrile for those keeping score at home) to do imaging scans on living subjects. Only 5 of the 19 former players that the study attempted to contact volunteered, and their brain scans were compared to five control subjects.

It is an exciting, though definitely early development. From the Outside the Lines report, Dr. Julian Bailes calls “identifying CTE in a living person . . . the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able make advances in treatment.” Developments in this area can not only aid in identifying those showing the brain trauma likely to lead to the cognitive and depressive symptoms, but also can, hopefully, eventually identify risks before they develop or progress to the point where the disease is inevitable.

[photo via USA Today Sports Images]