Wrestler, entertainer Chyna’s brain to be donated to science

Story highlights

The brain of wrestler Chyna will be donated to study chronic traumatic encephalopathy

CTE can have symptoms similar to Alzheimer's

A growing number of athletes are donating their brains

CNN —  

Representatives for the wrestler and entertainer Chyna confirmed that her brain will be donated for research into the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.

Police in Redondo Beach, California, said Joan Laurer, who went by the name Chyna, was found dead in her apartment April 20. She was 45.

CTE can result in Alzheimer’s-like symptoms such as mood swings, memory loss and rage. It can potentially lead to suicide. Researchers believe the disease is a result of repeated hits to the head that yield a buildup of an abnormal protein called tau. CTE can be definitively diagnosed only after death.

More athletes’ brains to be studied

Chyna’s spokesman Anthony Anzalo said her brain will be examined by Dr. Bennet Omalu. Omalu was the first to document CTE in the brain of a professional football player. Will Smith played him in the 2015 movie “Concussion.”

Chyna and wrestler Triple H pose for a photo in 1999.
hulton archive/Getty Images
Chyna and wrestler Triple H pose for a photo in 1999.

CTE has been connected to the deaths of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson and San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau. Recently, both racing star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and women’s soccer icon Brandi Chastain have promised to donate their brains for CTE research.

Researchers at Boston University have identified the disease in nearly 200 people. CTE has been identified in over 90% of the brains the researchers have studied.

On April 20, a friend went to check on Laurer, found her unresponsive and notified police. The cause of death is under investigation, but police say there were no signs of foul play.

Chyna, an icon of the WWE

Follow CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter

  • See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Chyna, who was nicknamed the Ninth Wonder of the World, was named the 1996 “Rookie of the Year for the Women’s Championship,” her website says. She wrestled in the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournaments and became the only undefeated Women’s Champion in the history of the World Wrestling Federation.