A team of researchers from Boston University's CTE Center named TMEM106B as the gene that influences how people experience severe forms of the diseases while others do not. This recent discovery can help identify who are at greater risks of developing severe CTE or aid in identifying biomarkers used for diagnosis during life.
What Is CTE?
CTE is a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer's. It occurs when a protein called Tau spreads throughout the brain and kill brain cells. As a result, a person who has the disease can experience issues with thinking and memory, as well as behavioral problems. Symptoms often appear when the patient is in their late 20s or 30s and get worse as they get older.
Veterans and athletes who are involved in contact sports such as boxing and football are often at risk of developing the disease. Currently, there is no cure for the disease and diagnosis of CTE can only be done after the patient has died.
However, the new study published in the journal Acta Neuropathological Communications could aid in diagnosis and treatment or perhaps be the first step in finding a way to prevent and cure the disease.
Gene Linked To CTE
To find the gene, the researchers studied brains donated to the VA-BU-CLF brain banks by 86 former contact-sport athletes. All have been found to have evidence of developing CTE, but do not have traces of other neurodegenerative diseases.
The team compared the athlete brains to the brains of 376 people who have no CTE. While the gene does not influence whether a person will develop the disease or not, they found that those who have genetic variation are more likely to have more severe brain inflammation and higher amount of tau.
"However, among the athletes with CTE, variation did predict increased CTE pathology and brain inflammation," explained Jonathan Cherry, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University School of Medicine and first author of the study. "Additionally, the risk allele increased the likelihood of developing dementia by 2.5 times suggesting the variant might predict an increased risk for developing the symptoms of CTE."
Brain inflammation and a buildup of tau in the brain are both linked to dementia. Researchers believe that the new study can also add evidence to the connection between the TMEM106B gene and neurodegenerative diseases.