Nav: Home

Molecular tracer, seen with PET scan, shows concentrations of abnormal proteins

July 17, 2018

FINDINGS

In a small study of military personnel who had suffered head trauma and had reported memory and mood problems, UCLA researchers found brain changes similar to those seen in retired football players with suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

BACKGROUND

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, occurs in people who have had multiple head injuries. Recent studies and headlines have focused on former football players who exhibited symptoms such as depression, confusion and mood swings. In later stages, CTE can lead to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death, when examination of brain tissue reveals clumps of a protein called tau, which kills brain cells.

To aid in diagnosing CTE in living individuals, UCLA researchers are studying a molecular tracer, called FDDNP, which binds with tau as well as another abnormal protein called amyloid. The tracer, given intravenously, shows up in brain scans, pointing to the location and extent of abnormal proteins in the brain.

Previously, UCLA researchers used the tracer to study the brains of 15 former NFL players with memory and mood problems. In that study, the pattern of abnormal protein distribution in living patients was consistent with the tau distribution seen in autopsy-confirmed CTE cases.

METHOD

For the current study, which builds upon the earlier research, seven military personnel (five veterans and two in active duty) who had suffered mild traumatic brain injuries and had memory or mood complaints underwent neuropsychiatric evaluations. They had brain scans after being injected with FDDNP, the molecular tracer. The results were compared to those of the 15 previously studied football players, as well as 24 people with Alzheimer's dementia and 28 people without cognitive problems, for comparison.

IMPACT

The location and quantity of the tracer in the brains of the military personnel were similar to that seen in retired football players and distinct from the distribution patterns seen in people with Alzheimer's disease or in healthy individuals.

Larger studies using FDDNP and brain scans in people at risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy are needed to confirm the usefulness of FDDNP as a diagnostic tool. The ability to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living individuals would help scientists observe the progression of the disease, develop treatments and quantify the scope of CTE among different populations, such as military veterans.

AUTHORS

Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA and director of the Longevity Center at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, is the study's senior author. Co-first authors are Drs. Stephen Chen and Prabha Siddarth, both of UCLA. Other authors are Jorge Barrio, Natacha Emerson, Chris Giza, Sung-Cheng Huang, Jie Liu, Jacqueline Martinez, David Merrill, Nagichettiar Satyamurthy and Koon-Pong Wong, all of UCLA; Robert Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons Law Offices in Wheeling, West Virginia; Julian Bailes of the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine; and Bennet Omalu of UC Davis.

JOURNAL

The study appears in the July 17 Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
-end-
FUNDING

This study was supported by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Fund for Alzheimer's Disease Research; the Parlow-Solomon and Plot Professorships; Bob and Marion Wilson; the Ahmanson Foundation; the U.S. National Institutes of Health; and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The FDDNP tracer is intellectual property owned by UCLA and licensed to TauMark LLC. Barrio, Huang, Omalu, Satyamurthy and Small are co-inventors of the marker. Barrio, Fitzsimmons, Huang, Satyamurthy and Small have a financial interest in TauMark. Other disclosures are listed in the published study.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Memory Articles:

Taking photos of experiences boosts visual memory, impairs auditory memory
A quick glance at any social media platform will tell you that people love taking photos of their experiences -- whether they're lying on the beach, touring a museum, or just waiting in line at the grocery store.
Think you know how to improve your memory? Think again
Research from Katherine Duncan at the University of Toronto suggests we may have to rethink how we improve memory.
Improving memory with magnets
The ability to remember sounds, and manipulate them in our minds, is incredibly important to our daily lives -- without it we would not be able to understand a sentence, or do simple arithmetic.
Who has the better memory -- men or women?
In the battle of the sexes, women have long claimed that they can remember things better and longer than men can.
New study of the memory through optogenetics
A collaboration between Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Harvard University pioneers the increase of memory using optogenetics in mice in Spain.
Peppermint tea can help improve your memory
Peppermint tea can improve long-term and working memory and in healthy adults.
A new glimpse into working memory
MIT study finds bursts of neural activity as the brain holds information in mind, overturns a long-held model.
Memory ensembles
For over forty years, neuro-scientists have been interested in the biological mechanisms underlying the storage of the information that our brain records every day.
What is your memory style?
Why is it that some people have richly detailed recollection of past experiences (episodic memory), while others tend to remember just the facts without details (semantic memory)?
Watching a memory form
Neuroscientists at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science have discovered a novel mechanism for memory formation.

Related Memory Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#518 With Genetic Knowledge Comes the Need for Counselling
This week we delve into genetic testing - for yourself and your future children. We speak with Jane Tiller, lawyer and genetic counsellor, about genetic tests that are available to the public, and what to do with the results of these tests. And we talk with Noam Shomron, associate professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, about technological advancements his lab has made in the genetic testing of fetuses.