Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen discusses the new CTE study she will lead at TGen in downtown Phoenix on May 24. Mark Henle/azcentral sports
It’s been 15 years since forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered and diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, spawning additional research on the subject and a movie, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith.
In those 15 years, however, one thing has not changed. If football players, boxers, soldiers or anyone else wants to find out if they have CTE, they have to die first.
CTE, a degenerative brain disease that can cause depression, mood disorders and cognitive changes, can only be detected at autopsy.
Scientists are researching ways to change that, and an important part of that work will begin in late summer or early fall in Arizona.
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in downtown Phoenix, working in concert with Aethlon Medical of San Diego, will begin trying to find out if biomarkers indicating CTE can be found in the blood, urine or saliva of the living.
The goal is to enroll at least 50 former NFL players in the study and compare their results to a control group of athletes who weren’t subject to repeated head trauma in their sports.
“CTE is so weird in that it’s so little-studied,” said TGen’s Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Johnson, who will lead the study. “The only people who have been studied are those who have the self-identified problems and sent their brains to autopsy at (Boston University). It would be fantastic to find the marker and just screen people.”
A recent study by a subsidiary of Aethlon suggests that’s possible. Researchers found levels of the tau protein in the blood of 78 former NFL players were nine…