Researchers receive $460,000 NIH grant for brain imaging study

Michael Alosco, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and Gil Rabinovici, MD, professor of neurology and radiology at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have been awarded a two-year, $460,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional support for the study is provided by the Rainwater Charitable Foundation.

Alosco and Rabinovici will study the effectiveness of a second generation tau PET tracer (MK-6240) in hopes of detecting chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in living people. The study, "Focused Imaging for the Neurodegenerative Disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (FIND-CTE)," will involve 30 former National Football League players and 10 controls between the ages of 45-74. The Concussion Legacy Foundation will handle recruitment of the participants.

Repeated hits to the head, such as those from contact sports, have been associated with progressive brain diseases, including CTE. CTE is a progressive brain disease characterized by the presence of a protein called tau that presents uniquely from any other neurological disorder. However, to date, the only way to diagnosis CTE is through brain autopsy. This initial proof-of-concept study will attempt to identify a way to detect the tau protein of CTE prior to death using novel brain imaging methods.

This research will use a brain imaging technique called tau positron emission tomography to test the potential ability of a novel tau agent to detect the tau protein seen in CTE during life. If we can detect CTE during life, it will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of developing and testing potential treatments."

Michael Alosco, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine

Alosco is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist and the co-director of the NIA-funded Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Clinical Core and is also a lead investigator at the BU CTE Center. His research is devoted to studying the long-term effects of repetitive head impacts and biomarker development for CTE and related diseases. Alosco has more than 140 peer-reviewed publications, is the recipient of an NIH/NINDS K23 Award, is the Project Lead of an NIH-funded multisite U54 grant and serves as a PI and/or co-investigator on numerous federal and non-federal funded grants.

Those interested in signing up for the study can visit ConcussionFoundation.org/research.

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