A team of Chilean scientists will search football players for a tool to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, a growing disease that currently only treats its symptoms and not its origin, according to EFE researchers reported.
The aim is to investigate whether the cumulative damage that soccer players receive when they hit the ball with their head constantly can cause dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, explained Dr. Waldo Cerpa, team leader. Using biochemical markers, cognitive tests and images of the brain, the researchers hope to characterize neurodegenerative diseases in order to administer more effective treatments and slow down their progress, said Cerpa, future deputy director of the Center of Excellence in Biomedicine of Magallanes (Cebima).
According to data from the Professional Corporation Alzheimer and other Dementias (Coprad), in Chile, some 200,000 people currently suffer from this disease , a figure that could triple up to 2050, according to estimates.
At the same time, the consultancy GfK Adimark has determined that 14% of the Chilean population plays soccer periodically, with the risk, warned Waldo Cerpa, of suffering constant blows in the head. “We are a footballing country since we children are subjected to this sport of contact, where caution is lost and the perception that damage is accumulating,” he said.
“According to existing studies with some markers of damage, it is not necessary to stick too strong , it is enough that in your life you are constantly nodding the ball to acquire a predisposition to the development of dementia,” added the researcher of the Center for Aging and Regeneration of the Catholic University of Chile (Care UC). (You can read: Scientists find possible method to recover memory in patients with Alzheimer’s )
The project, which has the backing of the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (Fondecyt), will analyze how cumulative damage caused by trauma can degenerate learning and memory functions.
To do this, he will work with the Professional Footballers Union (Sifup) and examine players who have suffered contusions, together with the neurologist at the Catholic University Maximiliano Rovegno. Both, with the help of a psychologist, will seek to identify what correlation exists between blows to the head and the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Finding these patterns, certain biochemical markers of damage, would allow them to develop for the first time a form of early diagnosis in groups at greater risk.
In addition, in the Cebima, Cerpa conducts the search for the treatment of the disease through the administration of lithium or other compounds of natural origin existing in the Magallanes region.
During his career, Cerpa has studied glutamate, which is the brain’s most important neuronal transmission molecule, the medium through which about 80% of the synapses (specialized intercellular functional approach between neurons) of the central nervous system are performed.
Thanks to glutamate, sensory, motor, cognitive or emotional information travels, and also, it is a primordial actor in the storage and recovery of our memories and its effects are executed mostly through its receptors located at the synaptic level.
Among them stands out the receptor for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) , which is altered in diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Cerpa has studied how NMDA-type receptors behave under two conditions of damage that occur in the brain: oxidative stress and neuroinflammatory processes, elements that are found in any degenerative neurological pathology and also when acute pathologies occur, that is, with a blow to the head.
In the study, the team will be able to analyze, at the moment that these mechanisms are activated , how altered they are and how they contribute to the progression of cognitive deterioration, and even more, if they manage to determine how they are altered, they will also be able to identify the therapeutic elements that allow regulate those same mechanisms. (Also read: Patients with Alzheimer’s could enjoy their favorite music )
According to Waldo Cerpa, the work should allow not only look at the damage associated with a stroke, but a whole battery of cognitive analysis that will allow to say if the person, in addition to that damage, has an increase in oxidative and neuroinflammatory markers. In this context, the analysis with soccer players could allow to identify these markers before they develop a chronic pathology and take preventive measures.