Dr. Ann McKee: Getting Closer to a Diagnostic Marker for CTE in the Living

Currently, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can only be identified in someone post-mortem. Dr. Ann McKee explains how current research on working to discover diagnostic markers to identify CTE in the living.

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So we’re very close to getting a diagnostic marker for CTE. I think there’s many groups working on it. We’ve have some very exciting discoveries over the last year, so the types of biomarkers that might be helpful are number one: imaging tests, scanning the brain, and there is something where they can tag the tau in the brain. They can ingest a substance in the veins and it’ll light up in the brain, and that’s called Pet Scan for Tau or Tau Pet Scanning. At this point it’s still not quite precise enough so it’s not useful yet, but there’s great hope that that will be specific in the future. Other tests that are going on are blood tests. We have blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease so we’re looking at some of those same markers in CTE. And again, we’re not as close to it as we are in Alzheimer’s, but we’re getting closer. We, in our studies, because of we’ve studied the brain tissue, we’ve been looking at some unique markers in the brain tissue compared to the brain tissue from Alzheimer’s disease. And we found some inflammatory proteins that appear to be specifically upregulated to CTE. We’re still not at the point that they can be used in living people, but hopefully they can. There’s a general sense that it won’t be one biomarker. It won’t just be one test. It’ll be a whole complex number of tests that lead you to say a 95% certainty that that’s what’s going on. We’re not there yet, but I think we’ve made remarkable progress in the last few years.
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