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What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

This video visits Dr. Kasraeian as he speaks on CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. He talks about what it is and the causes.


Matt: Welcome back. Last week, we heard that former New England Patriot, Aaron Hernandez, had advanced stages of CTE. I'm going to try and pronounce this, Doc. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: Spectacular.

Speaker 3: Good job.

Matt: The same horrible brain disease so many NFL and other sports players have suffered from. But now there's something new out of Boston University where a lot of research is going on to try to find out more about this disease before people die.

Speaker 3: And so we are so glad to have our medical contributor, Dr. Ali Kasraeian, here to walk us through. Dr. Kasraeian really thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: Oh it's always great.

Speaker 3: On the chat we've talked about this a couple times, because it seems to be such a controversial issue. One hand, okay this something that happens to the brain, causes trauma, but then there's the argument of how bad is it and what really creates the problem? So if you don't mind, can we start with a little bit... I think people are familiar with traumatic brain injury, but now you have CTE, what Matt said that I probably can't pronounce.

Matt: That's okay.

Speaker 3: What is the difference between the two?

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: So the interesting thing is the key for this is chronic. So it's a long term... It's a degenerative brain issue. So it's a long term process of change in the brain. It's thought to be related to repeated head trauma.

Speaker 3: Okay.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: And it's related to accumulation of this protein in the brain called tau. And some of the changes that people notice with this are the challenge with this is right now, the only way to diagnose it is after death. So they do an autopsy and they find these changes accumulation of this protein around blood vessels and things like that, which are a little bit different than Alzheimer's disease, which has an accumulation of this, which one really pats on the monic or specific thing with this is that it's not there. The only way to find that out is an autopsy. So the challenge with this, you have a lot of nonspecific findings that are mood disturbances, cognitive changes, like memory changes, so people-

Speaker 3: And are you saying with chronic, that means over time-

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: Over time.

Speaker 3: Versus traumatic brain injury is-

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: When people have a traumatic insult and they have significant changes that occur.

Speaker 3: Right away. You see it right away. It's obvious.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: So if you can find them over a shorter period of time. In here, someone has a career in football, again with this specific issue, and later on as you see years and years and years after their NFL career is over, and again with this specific issue, a lot of these things are autopsy findings that in retrospect, they found a consistent finding with NFL players where we saw in the movie Concussion, the controversy with this even coming to fruition as a diagnosis came forth.

Now the dilemma is how do we go from an autopsy diagnosis to a diagnosis, whether it's with imaging or a bio marker in blood or the spinal fluid or something where we can take that and add it to a thing that we can do in alive patients so that we can now move forward and do something to help those alive. Get some help in not only treating the disease and the symptoms, but maybe coming up with a cure.

Matt: Now, when you talk about doing this research, we're looking at a timeframe where this is coming up a whole lot more like how long do you think... I mean this research could take decades.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: I mean, research sometimes can take up to a lifetime, so that discussion is very individualized based on what we're dealing with. In this particular study, what they did is they took 23 specimens of men, NFL players, who had known CTE. And then they compare them to 50 brains that had known Alzheimer's disease and compared them to 18 controls of normal brains. And they found that this particular protein is called CCL 11. I'll have to remember that. And they found that there was a significantly increased level in those brains with CTE compared to Alzheimer's disease and compared to normal. And they also found an amazingly increased level for those who had a significantly longer career greater than 16 years. So that's [crosstalk]

Speaker 3: And on that note, let me ask you, Aaron Hernandez only played for the NFL for about three years-

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: Right.

Speaker 3: But he played college, he played high school, he played all his life. [crosstalk] could they start seeing... And when you said, "Well, we don't see it, the symptoms til after." Clearly the man had troubled behavior during his career at the NFL and even it started in college. Is there a possibility that when these boys are playing younger and younger and longer and longer throughout their lives, that we could start seeing them displaying the CTE behavior while they're playing for the team?

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: So the important thing with this is not everyone that displays aggression and rage necessarily has CTE because they played football for a few years. The study that was done in JAMA several months back that we covered on the chat, 99% of NFL players that were studied 110 out of 111 had changes consistent with CTE. 90% of college students did, but only three out of 14 high school students that were studied had CTE changes. So we have to take this stuff with a little bit of consistency and a little bit of a grain of salt. We can't apply everything to CTE when you take this in.

Again, this is a new study, it's an early study. We want to take it in with a wonderful step forward and it's a breakthrough, but it allows us to be able to take this information, hopefully it allows us to move things in the direction that can give hope to those that may be suffering, that we can get a diagnosis. And those who are alive that can give us hope to be able to give them some ability to give hope to those who are suffering for a treatment and potentially a cure.

Matt: And this is definitely a story that I want to keep an eye on it. I'm sure we'll bring it up again. Before we go, we do have to mention you have a race on Saturday, and this is to help with prostate cancer.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: Which is a disease that's very, very curable and so with this, we're doing our zero prostate cancer run to raise awareness for prostate cancer for a disease that a lot of times people don't talk about. One in seven, now one in eight men may be diagnosed with prostate cancer in a lifetime. Saturday at nine o'clock at Intuition Ale Works, we start our run. It's a fun 5k run walk for the entire family. We've done a great job, Lori in our office had done an amazing job all year of raising awareness and well we have a lot of runners that have already signed up.

Go to the website, sign up, and it should be an amazing, amazing time. And all the money that's raised comes back to our community to help men that are dealing with this and their family, so-

Speaker 3: Thank you so much.

Dr. Ali Kasraei...: We hope to see them.

Speaker 3: You're wonderful. Thank you, so register now.

Matt: That's right.