Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Dr. Sandra Watson

Reader 2

Dr. Michael Spezio


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is linked to repetitive brain trauma and is pathologically characterized by the widespread deposition of hyperphosphorylated tau as neurofibrillary tangles. At present, CTE can only be diagnosed by post-mortem neuropathological examination, severely limiting research on risk factors, epidemiology, and treatment. There is a critical need for novel biomarkers that can accurately diagnose CTE in living people so that effective therapeutic strategies can be developed for treatment and prevention. Telomere length shows promise as a potential biomarker for CTE because it can be safely assayed in living subjects and is thought to decrease as a result of damage to the central nervous system. This proposed study seeks to establish whether a relationship exists between telomere length and CTE by directly examining cerebral telomere length in post-mortem human brain tissue. In this initial phase, we propose to use well-established quantitative PCR techniques and TRF analysis to measure regional telomere lengths in the brains of CTE subjects and neurologically normal matched controls. We will (1) compare whole brain telomere lengths between CTE and control subjects, (2) examine telomere lengths across different brain regions within individuals and between CTE and control subjects, and (3) analyze how telomere length varies with respect to CTE severity. We hypothesize that telomere attrition is faster - and therefore telomere length is shorter - in the brains of subjects neuropathologically diagnosed with CTE compared to matched controls. Confirmatory results from this proposed study will give us insight into the relationship between telomere length and CTE, and may serve as a springboard for future research to identify suitable biomarkers for CTE.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.