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Clumps of proteins linked to dementia have been found for the first time in brain scans of living people who have suffered only a single head injury.
People who had traumatic brain injuries decades earlier have been found to have these damaging 'tangles' of a protein called tau.
Build-up - Tau - Brain - Hallmark - Alzheimer
The build-up of tau in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer's and one of the main targets for researchers trying to create dementia treatments.
It has been known for years that repeated head injuries, such as those suffered by boxers and rugby players, raise the risk of serious brain damage in later life.
Time - Images - Protein - Blow - Head
But this is the first time images have shown how the protein could build up after just a single serious blow to the head.
Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow have published the scans they took of 21 patients who had head injuries at least 18 years earlier.
Patients - Car - Crashes - Brain - Function
Most of the patients had been in car crashes when they were younger but had otherwise normal brain function without memory problems.
'Scientists increasingly realise that head injuries have a lasting legacy in the brain and can continue to cause damage decades after the initial injury,' said the study leader, Dr Nikos Gorgoraptis.
'Up - Research - People - Head - Injuries
'Up until now most of the research has focussed on the people who have sustained multiple head injuries, such as boxers and American football players.
'This is the first time we have seen in these protein tangles in patients who have sustained a single head injury.'
Volunteers - Others - Signs - Tau - Tangles
The 11 healthy, head injury-free volunteers to whom the others were compared didn't show any signs of the tau tangles in their brain scans.
Tau proteins occur naturally in the brain and nerves and are used by the body to provide structural support like a type of scaffold.
Brain - Cells
But when brain cells are damaged, as they could be in...
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