Researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center say that that a new study shows that the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) may be associated with the genes of a person. The results of the study have been published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is an Alzheimer’s-like disease associated with repeated hits to the head. Early and long-term exposure to repeated trauma is considered to be a likely contributor to the disease.

The disease has long been associated with football, where hard hits to the head can be alarmingly common. Unfortunately, CTE can be diagnosed only after death. There is no treatment or cure for the disease.

For the study, the researchers evaluated the brains of 86 former football players who had CTE and no traces of other neurodegenerative diseases. The data was compared with data from the brains of 376 patients who did not have CTE.

The researchers found that a variant of the gene TMEM106B may influence why some people experience more severe forms of the disease. Dr. Jesse Mez, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University’s School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, said, “Among people who have CTE, people with this [genetic] variation are 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia.”

While the researchers did not find a link between the gene variant itself and CTE, there was a link between the variant and lower amounts of a kind of protein called tau and reduced inflammation in the brain. Both inflammation and a buildup of tau in the brain are associated with the degeneration of the brain. The team is also looking at other genes that may play a role in CTE.