New Study Shows Genetic Code May Play Role In CTE

A variant of the gene TMEM106B may influence why some people experience more severe forms of the disease.

Dr. Ann C. McKee, Director of Boston University's CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System, does an autopsy on the brain of an NFL player who died in his 40s and donated his brain to to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank. (Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

A new study examines our genetic code to better understand why some people develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the Alzheimer’s-like disease associated with repeated hits to the head.

Researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center found that a variant of the gene TMEM106B might play a role in why some people experience more severe forms of the disease than others, reports CNN. 

“Among people who have CTE, people with this [genetic] variation are 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia,” said Dr. Jesse Mez, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University’s School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, according to CNN. 

Mez said the findings help researchers better understand “biologically, mechanistically,” what is going on in the brain in CTE.

“In understanding the mechanism and in identifying this genetic risk factor, we have new potential targets to develop therapies,” he said.

Other researchers worry that it is too early to make much of the findings.
“We need to tread carefully. The study shows that the gene may be associated with reduced risk for CTE, but CTE is a polymorphous and polyphenotypic and polygenetic disease, [and] focusing on one gene, which may reduce risk, may be a stretch,”Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who first detected CTE in professional football players and who was also not involved in the new research told CNN. 

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