CTE has been in the news again recently with the autopsy results of Aaron Hernandez revealing a severe case of CTE and recent news from Boston University that a test for CTE while the patient is alive may be near.
Kannalife™ Sciences is on the front lines in the fight to end the overwhelming incidence of CTE among NFL players. The company is doing the groundbreaking research necessary to create effective preventatives or treatments for the degenerative damage caused by concussions and brain injury.
What is CTE?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease caused by repetitive blows to the head. This brain trauma typically comes in the form of concussions, a type of brain injury caused by a sudden blow to the head that jolts the brain and causes bruising, blood vessel damage, and nerve injury.
The nerve axons in the brain become damaged, adversely affecting cell-to-cell communication and gradually causing the brain to atrophy, or waste away. Additionally, deposits of the proteins Tau and TDP-43 and changes in white matter occur in response to the disease.
The repetitive trauma to the brain causes symptoms that don’t become noticeable until about eight to 10 years after the repetitive trauma injury and the outset of the disease. Eventually, those with CTE will experience memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, depression, aggression, and in some cases, dementia.
Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death through brain tissue analysis. Doctors slice brain tissue and use special chemicals to make the Tau clumps visible. They then systematically search areas of the brain for Tau clumps with a unique pattern specific to CTE.
Recent CTE Research
Bennet Omalu first shocked the football establishment when he published an article in the journal Neurosurgery detailing his identification of CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation partnered with Boston University and the Veterans Administration to form the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, led by Dr. Ann McKee. Ann McKee is the co-author of a study published in July that examined the donated brains in the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank for evidence of CTE.
Linked to repeated blows to the head, CTE is rampant among concussion prone NFL players, whose donations make up a significant number of samples in the study. The study revealed that up to 99 percent of deceased of NFL players suffered from CTE. Conducted at Boston University, the study recorded the incidence of CTE among deceased football players and claims to have discovered biomarkers for diagnosing CTE among living athletes. In the study, only 1 of the 111 NFL players whose brains were studied was found to be free of CTE.
However, it isn’t just football players who are in danger of falling victim to CTE. According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, “CTE has been found in individuals whose primary exposure to head impacts was through tackle football (200+ cases confirmed at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank), the military (25+ cases), hockey (20+ cases), boxing (15+ cases, 50+ globally), rugby (5+ cases), soccer (5+ cases, 10+ globally), pro wrestling (5+ cases), and, in fewer than three cases each, baseball, basketball, intimate partner violence, and individuals with developmental disorders who engaged in head banging behaviors.”
Just this week, Dr. McKee and her team at Boston University revealed that they may be close to creating a test that can identify the presence of CTE in living patients by identifying a protein in spinal fluid linked to the condition. If CTE can be diagnosed in living patients, then the medical establishment can be more proactive in its treatment.
Related research at the Salk Institute by Dr. David Schubert on the effects of cannabinoids on Tau proteins in Alzheimer’s disease patients may prove helpful in understanding how to treat CTE. Similarly to CTE, brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease have a buildup of Tau proteins. In his research, Dr. Schubert hinted that cannabinoids may work to remove plaque forming Tau proteins from brains cells, slowing and perhaps even reversing the effects of the disease.
Kannalife™ Sciences Works on Cannabinoid-Based Treatment for CTE
Medical Marijuana, Inc. portfolio company Kannalife™ Sciences is currently conducting research and development on a novel compound based on cannabinoids like CBD to act as a preventative and therapeutic treatment for CTE.
Kannalife™ Sciences holds an exclusive license with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the commercialization of U.S. Patent #6630507, “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.” Using this patent, the company is hoping to create a drug that will protect and possibly even heal the brain when exposed to trauma.
Kannalife™ Sciences spokesperson and three time NFL Pro-Bowl placekicker Nick Lowery recently completed a two-day media blitz during which he discussed the benefits CBD could hold for NFL players and the devastating effects of CTE he has seen in his fellow players.
In the past, Kannalife™ Sciences has urged the NFL to move forward on research that explores the links between concussion and CTE and whether CBD would provide benefit to active and retired players.
With the current work to develop a cannabinoid-based treatment and further research adding to our understanding of CTE and its devastating effects, we may to be closer than ever before to uncovering an effective way to protect the brains NFL players.