Brain disease puzzle solved: What killed ‘entirely missing’ soldier?

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CNN, IOS Investor, SB News Network, Woojin Cho for CNN

This story was originally published by CNN, IOS Investor, SB News Network, Woojin Cho for CNN, and E

Decades of research into brain injuries and soldier suicides have failed to yield a definitive explanation for the omicron case — a mystery that has puzzled scientists since 1998. But according to a study from the National Institutes of Health, the cause is likely one of a mixture of factors including genetics, drugs and lifestyle.

The sole survivor of an apparent “accidental” driving accident which left only his brain and lower extremities intact, 33-year-old Steven Frederick Joshua Caeser suffered a brain injury that left him bedridden, dependent on constant care and with serious physical impairments. The man’s lower left leg was amputated, while his mouth was taped shut with two zippers.

When Caeser, an avid driver, lost control of his car and crashed it into a culvert in Roanoke, Virginia in 1998, he had allegedly darted out into traffic to avoid a previous motor vehicle accident. The man’s condition was initially treated at hospital after the accident and he returned home after being hospitalized for more than a month.

After 15 days in hospital, Caeser’s father told reporters that their son was confined to a wheelchair, and suffered from seizures, paralysis in his left leg and speech problems.

In 2013, Caeser died at age 52, and a subsequent autopsy revealed his vertebrae and upper limbs were completely absent, while his skull, spinal cord and other brain tissues were surrounded by cerebral blood vessels.

The family lawyer argued that Caeser had been at fault for the accident, and applied for $450,000 in compensation, citing a still-pending lawsuit. And the coroner suggested Caeser had been “attempting to kill himself” before he crashed his car.

An array of blood samples collected after Caeser’s death were sent to clinical neuropathologist Christopher Braude at the Institute of Neuroscience of Manchester, in England, who recommended further testing.

‘Uniquely haemorrhagic in origin’

Results from a 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) slab of brain tissue, which had been compared to numerous other specimens, included mutations linked to a number of common chronic neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“This incredibly rare finding, with an abundance of known symptoms among the samples, makes this an extremely compelling case,” Braude told The Times, which first reported the finding.

The pattern of these abnormalities was also found in tissue tissue from Caeser, along with a vascular cortex within the brain’s medial temporal lobe and spinal cord surface — two typical locations for vascular pathology.

“We now know that a separate brain stem account is present, capable of forming fluids that primarily supply the brain,” said Braude.

The methods developed by Braude and his team identified the telltale vascular maps as Caeser, and proved once and for all that he was unlikely to have simply been in front of the car, driving, but rather driving at the time of the accident.

“What is telling is the specific proteins that are present,” said Daniel Meghan, a neuropathologist from Reading University, who was not involved in the study. “These proteins are what make sense of this condition. It is unique, it is haemorrhagic in origin.”

While Braude said he was not giving advice on how Caeser should have been treated before the accident, it’s likely that at some point there was diagnostics that were not followed up on.

“They probably did a mental evaluation of their son and should have inquired to see if there was something there which wasn’t observed but which they could potentially have picked up or discovered,” said Meghan.

“Anybody in the family would have been able to identify problems with his basic functioning and would have had some knowledge of what he was like. They should have looked at his skin, looked at his eyes, noticed anything abnormal.”

Meghan said it’s likely that Caeser’s family was “hoping for answers and focusing on getting justice,” but added that “it takes decades to get to the bottom of things.”

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