Dr. Ann McKee: Challenges of Finding a Treatment for CTE

Dr. Ann McKee explains why researchers are still struggling to identify an effective treatment for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Brain donation makes a huge impact on the advances that can be made to understand, diagnosis, and treat CTE.

Learn more about some of the treatments available for those recovering from brain injury and PTSD using our Treatment Hub.

Watch more videos from Dr. Ann McKee.

So how does our work lead to treatments? Well the biggest problem we had with treatment, there are plenty of treatments out there that are potential treatments. There’s things that act against the tau. There’s things that act against tau progression in the nervous system. There’s different agents that suppress inflammation. There’s other agents that repair the vascular system because there’s microvascular injury, too. But there’s no way to use them in CTE or someone who’s suspected of having CTE because there’s no way to monitor it. It’s a diagnosis we can’t make during life. So even if you were to give someone a drug or a specific treatment, you really wouldn’t have a way to capture whether or not it’s effective. So really what we’re looking at is a way to diagnose the injury during life and monitor it. That’ll give us much more information about potential therapeutics. And that’s what we’re focusing on. The work in the brain – we do two things. First of all, we give some comfort to the families who donate those brains by looking at the brain, by analyzing it in extraordinary completeness, and giving them a diagnosis. It might not always be what they want. It may not be what they were expecting, but at least there’s closure and for many, many people that’s very comforting. It’s just there’s a relief that is palpable with the families, a relief that something explains why things went wrong. So that’s a service we do to the families, and that’s important, but I think the more important thing is that we use this tissue from these very generous families to accelerate the research, to distribute it to other researchers so we can understand the molecular nature of the injury, the biochemistry, the cellular events, because once we understand how it develops, how it affects certain parts, how it’s spreads, that’s how we can really attack it. So our understanding at the brain tissue level gives us insight into diagnostics and therapeutics that we could get no other way. Tthere’s certainly drugs out there that could potentially be used, but they haven’t really been systematically looked at because there’s no way to do a clinical trial. So it’s all just an animal model or something along those lines. And it probably will be a complicated – again it’s not gonna be a simple pill. This is your anti-CTE pill. Just take it. It’ll probably be something much more complicated. The brain’s complicated. And it may be sprucing up our defense systems, our ability to withstand injury. It may spruce up recovery mechanisms maybe drawing in other parts of the brain to recover. And it may not be a drug, a pill. It may be something light therapy, laser therapy, occupational therapy. It may be something much more dynamic, transcranial magnetic whatever that is. But you know, we’re gonna have to think outside of the box. This video was produced by BrainLine thanks to generous support from the Infinite Hero Foundation.
Posted on BrainLine January 11, 2019.

This video was produced by BrainLine thanks to generous support from the Infinite Hero Foundation.

About the author: Ann McKee, MD

Ann McKee, MD is the chief neuropathologist for the Framingham Heart Study and the Boston University-based Centenarian Study. She is also the chief neuropathologist for the Boston-based Veterans Administration Medical Centers and for the Sports Legacy Institute.

Ann McKee