Imaging agent could reveal chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living brain 

AUTHORS: LAUREN PULLING
In a proof-of-concept study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (NY, USA) have demonstrated the use of an experimental PET tracer in the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the living brain. At present, diagnosis is only possible after death, but this new study could pave the way for the development of an effective diagnostic tool for living patients.
In the study, published in Translational Psychiatry, the research team investigated the use of an experimental PET imaging ligand, [18F]T807/AV1451, which they hoped would provide antemorten detection of tauopathies that are characteristic of CTE.
The team investigated the use of T807 in a 39-year old retired NFL player who had experienced 22 previous concussions and exhibited some of the behavioral characteristics of CTE, including emotional lability and irritability. Following administration of T807 and PET scanning, the player was demonstrated to exhibit the pathognomonic tau pathology of CTE.
“Our study participant’s scan is the first to reveal during life a pattern of tau imaging that outlines the wrinkles and folds of the living brain, just like the ‘pathognomonic pattern’ described by the NINDS panel as diagnostic of a brain with CTE,” commented Sam Gandy, Director of the Center for Cognitive Health and NFL Neurological Care Program at the Icahn School of Medicine and senior study author. “When fully validated, this new ligand has the potential to be used as a diagnostic biomarker and represents an exciting development in the detection and tracking of CTE.”
“This research is in its infancy,” added Dara Dickstein (Icahn School of Medicine), first author on the study. “Whether or not the pathology can be reversed or halted is something we have yet to determine and these new tauopathy PET scans may be able to help in this endeavor.”
Looking ahead, a research team led by Drs Gandy and Dickstein at Mount Sinai is now studying a further 24 patients. They aim to establish a clinical trial in early 2017 to investigate further the use of T807 in the diagnosis of CTE patients who may respond to an anti-tauopathy treatment currently being studied for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
“These findings demonstrate that we may now have the first biomarker for the detection of CTE through tau imaging,” concluded Howard Fillit, Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. “This may prove significant as an early diagnostic tool for those who suffer repeated traumatic brain injuries. It may also help us better understand the similarities in disease processes between CTE, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and determine whether repeated head injuries may lead to the onset of Alzheimer’s.”

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