Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine professors Robert Stern and Ann McKee have been at the forefront of research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) for more than a decade, paving the way to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. CTE’s memory loss, confused thinking, and sometimes dangerous behavioral changes often affect current or retired football players, boxers, and other athletes in contact sports, as well as military veterans and others.

“These athletes are often in the prime of their lives when they die,” says McKee, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Pathology and director of the BU Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center. “When you see a disease in their brain postmortem, you think, ‘We cannot let this happen.’ It is time for us not just to categorize what is going on with these CTE cases but to take action.”

By analyzing BU’s trove of donated brains from deceased football players, veterans, and others, the pair have established criteria for diagnosing CTE. More recently, Stern has tested living athletes and found abnormal levels of tau protein–which destroys brain tissue and is linked to CTE and other neurodegenerative illnesses–in patterns similar to those found postmortem.

The team is now working to develop reliable diagnostic tests for the living. “Being able to diagnose CTE in patients will eventually help scientists and caregivers detect it early, develop effective treatments, and even someday prevent this awful and debilitating brain-damaging disease,” says Stern, clinical core director of the CTE Center and lead investigator of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Philanthropic support can help advance this research, increasing the likelihood of discovering effective ways to diagnose, treat, and ultimately prevent CTE.

To learn more about how you can help, please contact the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Development team.

Learn more about BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine’s CTE research.

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