New Discovery Made in Research Diagnosing Impact-Related Brain Disease

New Cleveland Clinic research shows how a biomarker in the blood could possibly help with detecting CTE, a brain disease caused by repeated head impacts.

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CLEVELAND – Cleveland Clinic researchers have made a new discovery that could be helpful when it comes to diagnosing CTE, which is a brain disease caused by repeated head impacts.

Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death, making it impossible to detect and treat.

“There has been a big search for what we would call biomarkers, that is tests that we can do that might indicate that somebody is at risk for developing CTE or long-term consequences of head impacts,” explained Charles Bernick, MD, neurologist with Cleveland Clinic. “Well, it turns out that there seems to be some elements in the blood that can be measured.”

Dr. Bernick has been studying a group of active and retired mixed martial arts fighters and boxers for 12 years.

His research shows that elevated levels of a certain biomarker in the blood correlates with a decline in cognitive function and structures of the brain.

He said while promising, more research is needed to see if the findings are similar in other professions.

If they are, the ultimate goal would be to then use this test to help diagnose CTE while a person is still alive.

“It could be used to follow football players, hockey players, soccer plays, our military. But again, we don’t know if this finding applies to these groups, and we have to assess that before we can be sure and use this test on a routine basis,” Dr. Bernick explained.

Dr. Bernick adds that this test could be useful in the development of future medications as well.

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