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Archive - Jul 25, 2017

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Brain Disease in Former Football Players: 110 of 111 Deceased Former NFL Players Found to Show Signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in New Study; Significant CTE Also Found in Deceased Players from Lower Competitive Levels

Nearly every former National Football League (NFL) player (110 of 111) who played at least one regular season game and whose brain then was donated for research was diagnosed post-mortem with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Among former college football players, those numbers were slightly less, at 91 percent. The findings of the largest CTE case series ever published, which appeared today (July 25, 2017) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest that CTE may be related to prior participation in football and that a long duration of play may be related to substantial disease burden. The article is titled “Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Players of American Football.” CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head. Although the incidence and prevalence of CTE is unknown, it has been diagnosed in former amateur and professional contact sport athletes, as well as military veterans. Given the millions of contact sport athletes and military service members exposed to repetitive head impacts each year, CTE has become a major public health concern. Researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS) and the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) studied 202 deceased American football players whose brains were donated for research. They found CTE in 177 American football players across all levels of play (87 percent) including: 110 of 111 National Football League players (99 percent); 7 of 8 Canadian Football League (88 percent); 9 of 14 semi-professional players (64 percent); 48 of 53 college players (91 percent) and 3 of 14 high school players (21 percent).

Dodder Parasitic Plant Involved in Host Plant Alarm System; Host Plants Communicate Warning Signals Through Parasite Network When Insects Attack

Plants of the genus Cuscuta (dodder plants) have colorful folk names, such as wizard's net, devil's guts, strangle tare, or witch's hair. They are leaf- and root-less parasites and grow on their host plants without touching the soil. Their haustoria penetrate their host plants to extract water and nutrients. Dodder vines fuse their vascular systems with those of its host plants, connecting them with its network. A team of scientists led by Dr. Jianqiang Wu from the Kunming Institute of Botany in China and Dr. Ian Baldwin from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena have now taken a closer look at the ecological significance of dodder. They wanted to know whether the parasite is not only tapping the plants' supply system, but also playing a role in plant-plant communication. "It has been found that plants can communicate through volatile cues and underground mycorrhizal networks. We therefore wanted to know whether dodder can transmit insect-feeding-induced signals among different hosts and whether these signals can even activate defenses against insects," explains Dr. Jianqiang Wu, who worked at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology as a PhD student and later a project leader, and who is now heading a Max Planck Partner Group in China. In agriculture, dodder causes considerable economic damages in pasture farming with alfalfa and clover. In China, dodder parasitization leads to large losses in soybean yield. Therefore, the researchers used soybean plants for their experiments; but thale cress, tobacco, and wild tomato were also connected pairwise or in clusters with the parasite. In order to induce defense reactions, caterpillars of Spodoptera litura, a worldwide agricultural pest, were put on the plants.