ABC Australia: Study finds evidence of degenerative brain disease in nearly all former football players examined
Watching Ryan Freel play defense on a baseball field has been likened to “watching crash dummies in a seat belt test” and “bungee-jumping without the bungee.”
In Cincinnati, where he spent most of his eight seasons in the big leagues, Freel’s No. 6 jersey became synonymous to fans, teammates and opponents with playing the game the right way. That meant crashing into walls, sliding headfirst, jumping and diving to get to the ball, doing whatever was needed to make the play. The constant headaches, blurry vision and spotty memory were there, too. But that was baseball for Freel.
In January 2013, Freel’s number switched to VABT-13144. He was no longer described as a 5-foot-10, 185-pound utility man. Instead, the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, labeled his specimen type as “fixed brain fragments.”
As the NFL nears an end to its long-running legal battle over concussions, new data from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on traumatic brain injury has found evidence of a degenerative brain disease in 76 of the 79 former players it’s examined.
The findings represent a more than twofold increase in the number of cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that have been reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository in Bedford, Mass. Researchers there have now examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before their deaths, played the game professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school. Of that sample, 101 players, or just under 80 percent, tested positive for CTE.
Bellini, the Brazilian soccer star who won the 1958 World Cup and was honored with a statue outside the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, has been found to have had the degenerative brain disease linked to dozens of boxers and American football players when he died in March at age 83.
At the time, his death was attributed to complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers now say he had an advanced case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which is caused by repeated blows to the head and has symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s.
C.T.E. can be diagnosed only posthumously, and few brains of former soccer players have been examined. Bellini is the second known case, according to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University and the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center, who was brought in to assist in examining Bellini’s brain. McKee was also involved in a finding earlier this year when researchers found C.T.E. in the brain of a 29-year-old former soccer player from New Mexico who had played semiprofessionally.
As the cost of dementia care is projected by 2050 to reach $1.1 trillion, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias threaten to bankrupt our health care delivery system. Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s or related dementias cost Medicare three times as much as a cognitively healthy beneficiary. The quality of care has been adversely affected by the amount of burden placed on the caregiver, and in 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association estimated that 60% of caregivers report a significant amount of emotion stress and depression.
The Alzheimer’s Association MA/NH Chapter is implementing an integrated approach to care coordination for individuals with AD or other dementias and their caregivers in collaboration with three major medical centers. The Dementia Care Coordination project is an innovative model of effective physician partnership, referral, and family support intended to achieve better health outcomes, improve patient-physician-caregiver partnership and communication, reduce caregiver burden, reduce unnecessary clinic and hospital visits, and to reduce overall healthcare costs.In the Dementia Care Coordination intervention, patient-caregiver units in the program will be referred at all stages of disease, to a care coordinator that will specifically tailor resources to the needs of the caregiver and patients, and will follow-up with the referring clinician to ensure better overall continuity of care. The purpose of the current project is the examine the patient-caregiver outcomes related to the Dementia Care Coordination intervention compared to the control condition of the usual and standard care provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. Approximately 200 patient-caregiver units will be recruited for this research from various clinics in the greater Boston area and through the Alzheimer’s Association over a period of 5 years.
We are currently seeking volunteers to participate in this research study is to examine the patient-caregiver outcomes related to the Dementia Care Coordination intervention compared to the control condition of the usual and standard care provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.
What happens during the study?
Care partners will be asked to complete a set of questionnaires 3 times over a 2 year period. Data from these questionnaires will be used to directly evaluate effectiveness of this new approach to care coordination. Patients do not fill out any questionnaires, but may be asked to participate in care coordination with their care partners.
You may be eligible to participate if you:
are a care partner for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease
Please call 617-414-1077 or email JoinADC@bu.edu for more information and to participate.
The Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) Community Action Council (CAC) met on March 18, 2010. The group discussed a new program from the Alzheimer’s Early Detection Alliance focused on outreach to African American families and churches and a new location-tracking product from the Alzheimer’s Association called Comfort Zone. The CAC meets bimonthly to share information about upcoming events, research, and new developments related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at BUSM have found that angiotensin receptor blockers —a particular class of anti-hypertensive medicines—are associated with a decrease in the occurrence and progression of dementia. Read more at health.msn.com.
The BU ADC announces an opening for a full-time post-doctoral fellowship position to commence in summer 2010. The fellowship provides specialized neuropsychology training and is intended for a candidate wishing to develop an academic career in clinical research. The application deadline is January 15, 2010. Read more about the fellowship program and application details.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) featured in The New Yorker. Read a recent article in The New Yorker magazine discussing CTE, featuring Dr. Ann McKee of the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy and director of the BU ADC Neuropathology Core. View a slideshow demonstating the traumatic effects of contact sports on the brain.
The Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) is involved in a variety of clinical, research, and educational activities. These activities are funded by grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health and nonprofit organizations. Often, research study participants, families, or community leaders wish to contribute to the fight against Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and these private donations are equally important to advancing the BU ADC’s mission. The BU ADC welcomes honorary and memorial donations, as these gifts are an excellent way to pay tribute to a family member or friend while making a contribution to the advancement of research in the field of AD. Please call Harriet Kornfeld at 617-638-5676 or visit us online at www-staging.bu.edu/alzresearch if you would like to make a donation.
The BU ADC would like to recognize the following private donors for their greatly appreciated contributions:
In memory of Philip Balducci
Dominic and Rosalie Cardone
In memory of Ben Chinitz
In memory of Eileen Consolmango
Rich and Ka Nelson
Joseph H. & Judith A. Porto
In memory of Robert J. Therrien
William and Rita MacLeod
Cynthia and Saul Bauman
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Therrien
In memory of Frank Sirois
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Sirois
In memory of Morris Phipps
Brent and Laurie Brooks
Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Health Outreach Program for the Elderly (HOPE) study evaluates memory and thinking abilities of older adults throughout their lives. The HOPE study serves as the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) research registry and includes approximately 500 participants, all of whom agree to be contacted for recruitment into other BU ADC-approved studies. On June 5th, 2009, the HOPE study held its participant appreciation event, the HOPE Brunch, at the Marriot hotel in Newton, MA, with over 200 people in attendance.
The purpose of the brunch was to recognize participants for their valued involvement in the HOPE study and to provide the latest updates on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. According to Eric Steinberg, HOPE study project manager, “It’s very heartening for volunteers who are committed to the fight against AD to come together for an educational experience.”
The event began with introductions from Mr. Steinberg, BU ADC Director Dr. Neil Kowall, and Mr. Michael Kincade, who serves as Safety Services and Community Programs Manager for the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The program continued with short presentations from a panel of BU ADC researchers that focused on the latest research on AD prevention and treatment methods, the results of the HOPE satisfaction survey, and scientific advances that have resulted directly from the participation and dedication of HOPE participants. Dr. Ann McKee, BU ADC Neuropathology Core Director, elaborated on the purpose of brain donation in AD research. HOPE participant Ms. Phyllis Eliasberg then read a touching letter that she had written to her sons about her decision to participate in the BU ADC brain donation program.
Throughout the brunch, raffles were held with prizes, and certificates of distinction were awarded to individuals for participation in the HOPE study for six years or longer. The BU ADC would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who attended the brunch.
The Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) welcomes new staff members: Nicole Cantwell, research assistant to Dr. Angela Jefferson and PAIRS Program Coordinator; Patrick Curtis, administrative assistant to Drs. Robert Green and Robert Stern; Fareesa Islam, administrative assistant to Dr. Angela Jefferson; Patricia Johnson, psychometrician on the ELAN and ADAPT studies; Denise Lautenbach, MS, Genetic Counselor and REVEAL Project Manager; Theresa McGowan, psychometrician on the ELAN study; and Silvia Serrano, MPH, BU ADC Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator. We also extend a warm welcome to our new student trainees: Michael Dombek, a senior at Boston University, and Bhaavika Patel, a junior at Boston University, who are both working with Dr. Jefferson; and Brittany Masatsugu, a Boston University graduate student who is working as a HOPE psychometrician.
Dr. Alpaslan Dedeoglu, Director of the Translational Neurotherapeutics Laboratory and BU ADC Translational Core Associate Director, recently received an R01 grant from the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Dedeoglu’s project, “Cyclohexanehexol Therapy in Transgenic Models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD),” assesses transgenic mouse brains and the correlation between amyloid-beta and neurofibrillary tangles with magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and cognitive function. Dr. Dedeoglu is also investigating the effect of non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs and inositols that may alter amyloid-beta aggregation. The BU ADC would like to congratulate Dr. Gwendalyn King, a biochemistry postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Carmela Abraham, who was awarded a prestigious K99 award from the National Institute on Aging for research on the anti-aging/protective gene Klotho. Dr. Abraham’s group found that Klotho levels are decreased in the aged brain and more so in models of AD. Dr. King’s award will allow her to continue studies to determine why Klotho is decreased with age and how its production is regulated in the brain. In parallel studies, Dr. King has identified potential novel drugs to elevate the Klotho protein. Experiments in animals will establish whether increasing this molecule is protective against neurodegenerative diseases, such as AD.
Many thanks and best wishes to the BU ADC staff who have recently left to pursue new directions: Susan Hiraki, MS, who left the REVEAL Study in May to pursue a master’s degree in public health in New York; and Stephanie Sikora, who left the BU ADC in September to relocate to Arizona. Thank you and best wishes to our recent student trainees: Monique Pimontel, who completed her master’s degree at Boston University and has since moved to New York to pursue a psychometrician position; and Morgan McGillicuddy, who has left to pursue her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Maine.
Greater Boston Memory Walk
The Memory Walk is the Alzheimer’s Association’s largest fundraising event. Walks take place annually in more than 600 communities nationwide. On Sunday, September 27th, the faculty, staff, participants and friends of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) participated in the Greater Boston Memory Walk in Cambridge, MA. This year, the BU ADC team welcomed staff and friends of one of our continuing care retirement community affiliates, Senior Living Residences, and together we raised over $11,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association!
An Optical Test for Early Detection
Building on their exciting discovery that amyloidbeta protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be detected in the lens of an eye, Drs. Lee Goldstein and Juliet Moncaster and their team are developing new non-invasive optical tests that can detect and track the disease process in its earliest stages. Such tests are being developed and tested in mice. At the recent 13th meeting of the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Vienna, Austria, Drs. Goldstein and Moncaster presented a corresponding finding that amyloid-beta is also found in the lenses of patients with Down syndrome.
Envisioning Future Events is Impaired in AD
It is well-known that patients with AD have trouble remembering information from the recent past, but do they have difficulty imagining the future as well? This question is exactly what Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) researchers Drs. Andrew Budson and Brandon Ally investigated in their paper, “Episodic simulation of future events is impaired in mild AD,” published in Neuropsychologia earlier this year. Patients with AD and healthy older adult controls were given a series of cue words and asked to either remember events from the past or imagine future events related to that word. Not only did the patients with AD have difficulty with both past and future tasks compared to the controls, the findings suggest that the same brain system responsible for remembering the past is also in charge of envisioning the future.
Ibuprofen & Cognitive Performance
In a collaborative project across several cores of the BU ADC, Drs. Ann McKee, Neil Kowall, and Alpaslan Dedeoglu recently published findings in Brain Research on the effects of ibuprofen on cognitive deficits, amyloid-beta, and tau accumulation in young triple transgenic mice. Learning performance of the mice was significantly improved with ibuprofen treatment compared to mice who did not receive the treatment. Ibuprofen-treated transgenic mice showed a significant decrease in intraneuronal oligomeric amyloid-beta and hyperphosphorylated tau immunoreactivity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for learning new information. Additional data suggest that intraneuronal amyloid-beta may be a cause of cognitive impairment. These findings support the idea that pathological alterations of tau are associated with intraneuronal oligomeric amyloid-beta accumulation.
Psychological Effects of Genetic Disclosure
Dr. Robert Green and the REVEAL study group recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine on the psychological effects of disclosing the AD risk-increasing apolipoprotein (APOE) ε4 genotype to adult children of patients with AD. Dr. Green and his colleagues found there were no significant increases in levels of anxiety, depression, or test-related distress for those who learned they were ε4-positive compared to those who did not receive their genotyping results, suggesting that disclosure of APOE genotype does not result in short-term psychological risks.