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  • Starting a research post: some considerations for ward-based doctors.

    24 October 2018

    Starting a research post after ward-based work can be a leap of faith and, as rewarding as it ultimately is, the initial transition can be a difficult one. This article addresses some of the questions which someone considering research should ask.

  • Young-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Historical and other observations

    24 October 2018

    There is a wide range of age at initial symptom onset in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis despite a mean age of 65 years in population-based studies. 'Young-onset' amyotrophic lateral sclerosis typically refers to patients younger than ∼45 years and accounts for about 10 of cases in contemporary series. A review of published cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis from 1850 to 1950 revealed a far higher proportion of cases with young onset (>50), with a steady decline to the contemporary figure. It is possible that this is not solely explained by increases in life expectancy. While there is still a rich variation in phenotypes among cases of young-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, bulbar onset was found to be significantly under-represented in analysis of a large patient database, with implications for age-related vulnerabilities pertaining to focality of symptom onset. The timing of initiating pathological processes in relation to the emergence of symptoms is discussed, including the potential role of very early development and the interaction of epigenetic and environmental factors. © 2012 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. All rights reserved.

  • Young-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: historical and other observations.

    24 October 2018

    There is a wide range of age at initial symptom onset in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis despite a mean age of 65 years in population-based studies. 'Young-onset' amyotrophic lateral sclerosis typically refers to patients younger than ∼45 years and accounts for about 10% of cases in contemporary series. A review of published cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis from 1850 to 1950 revealed a far higher proportion of cases with young onset (>50%), with a steady decline to the contemporary figure. It is possible that this is not solely explained by increases in life expectancy. While there is still a rich variation in phenotypes among cases of young-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, bulbar onset was found to be significantly under-represented in analysis of a large patient database, with implications for age-related vulnerabilities pertaining to focality of symptom onset. The timing of initiating pathological processes in relation to the emergence of symptoms is discussed, including the potential role of very early development and the interaction of epigenetic and environmental factors.

  • Epilepsy and the subsequent risk of cerebral tumour: record linkage retrospective cohort study.

    24 October 2018

    BACKGROUND: Studies suggest that seizures may precede the detection of cerebral tumour by several years. Aim To quantify the risk of cerebral tumour after new onset seizures, with particular interest in long term risk. METHODS: Using the Oxford Record Linkage Study (ORLS, 1963-1998) and English national linked Hospital Episode Statistics (1999-2005), cohorts of people with a first admission for epilepsy were constructed. Subsequent admissions with cerebral tumour were identified. The rate of occurrence of subsequent cerebral tumour in each epilepsy cohort was compared with that in a comparison cohort and expressed as a rate ratio (RR). RESULTS: The RR for cerebral tumour after epilepsy, relative to the rate of cerebral tumour in the comparison cohort, was 19.9 (95% CI 17.2 to 22.9) in the ORLS cohort and 19.7 (18.3-21.1) in the England cohort. The RR for malignant tumours were, respectively, 25.6 (21.7 to 30.0) and 27.3 (25.2 to 29.6). The RR for benign tumours were 10.1 (7.38 to 13.6) and 10.4 (9.07 to 11.8), respectively. The risk was highest for those aged 15-44 years at initial admission for epilepsy both in Oxford (24.2, 18.5 to 31.5) and England (38.1, 32.8 to 44.2). The risk of cerebral tumour was still raised several years after initial admission for epilepsy: in the ORLS cohort at 15 years or more, the RR was 3.29 (1.39 to 6.66) and, in the England cohort 5-7 years after initial admission, the RR was 5.27 (3.87 to 7.06). CONCLUSIONS: Seizures may herald the development of cerebral tumour, remote in time as well as soon after onset, with implications for guidelines on continued surveillance of those with new onset seizures.

  • Large-scale pathways-based association study in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

    24 October 2018

    Sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a devastating neurodegenerative disease, most likely results from complex genetic and environmental interactions. Although a number of association studies have been performed in an effort to find genetic components of sporadic ALS, most of them resulted in inconsistent findings due to a small number of genes investigated in relatively small sample sizes, while the replication of results was rarely attempted. Defects in retrograde axonal transport, vesicle trafficking and xenobiotic metabolism have been implicated in neurodegeneration and motor neuron death both in human disease and animal models. To assess the role of common genetic variation in these pathways in susceptibility to sporadic ALS, we performed a pathway-based candidate gene case-control association study with replication. Furthermore, we determined reliability of whole genome amplified DNA in a large-scale association study. In the first stage of the study, 1277 putative functional and tagging SNPs in 134 genes spanning 8.7 Mb were genotyped in 822 British sporadic ALS patients and 872 controls using whole genome amplified DNA. To detect variants with modest effect size and discriminate among false positive findings 19 SNPs showing a trend of association in the initial screen were genotyped in a replication sample of 580 German sporadic ALS patients and 361 controls. We did not detect strong evidence of association with any of the genes investigated in the discovery sample (lowest uncorrected P-value 0.00037, lowest permutation corrected P-value 0.353). None of the suggestive associations was replicated in a second sample, further excluding variants with moderate effect size. We conclude that common variation in the investigated pathways is unlikely to have a major effect on susceptibility to sporadic ALS. The genotyping efficiency was only slightly decreased ( approximately 1%) and genotyping quality was not affected using whole genome amplified DNA. It is reliable for large scale genotyping studies of diseases such as ALS, where DNA sample collections are limited because of low disease prevalence and short survival time.

  • Comparison of two percutaneous radiological gastrostomy tubes in the nutritional management of ALS patients.

    24 October 2018

    Patient care and minimizing complications post gastrostomy have to date received little attention in ALS patients. We compare the complications associated with pigtail and mushroom type percutaneous radiological gastrostomy tubes in this patient group. Patients requiring PRG received either Wills-Oglesby or the skin level Entristar. Retrospective review of the clinical notes was performed capturing demographic data, peristomal infection, tube displacement, tube failure, nutritional status, site of disease onset, and survival. Thirty-five patients (Group 1) had the Wills-Oglesby tube of which 14 (40%) tubes required replacement. The Entristar tube was inserted in 29 patients (Group 2) where 8 (28%) required replacement (NS). The incidence of infection was significantly lower with the Entristar tube, (p<0.001). The mean time to tube removal in Group 2 was 223 days (SD 147; range 71-494 days) due to 'buried bumper syndrome'. We conclude that the Entristar skin level gastrostomy tube is associated with a reduction in peristomal infection, tube failure and blockage compared with the Wills-Oglesby tube.

  • Abnormal cortical excitability in sporadic but not homozygous D90A SOD1 ALS.

    24 October 2018

    BACKGROUND: Excitotoxicity is one pathogenic mechanism proposed in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and loss of cortical inhibitory influence may be contributory. Patients with ALS who are homozygous for the D90A superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene mutation (homD90A) have a unique phenotype, associated with prolonged survival compared with patients with sporadic ALS (sALS). In this study, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to explore cortical excitation and inhibition. Flumazenil binds to the benzodiazepine subunit of the GABA(A) receptor, and (11)C-flumazenil positron emission tomography (PET) was used as a marker of cortical neuronal loss and/or dysfunction, which might in turn reflect changes in cortical inhibitory GABAergic mechanisms. METHODS: Cortical responses to single and paired stimulus TMS were compared in 28 patients with sALS and 11 homD90A patients versus 24 controls. TMS measures included resting motor threshold, central motor conduction time, silent period, intracortical inhibition (ICI), and facilitation. (11)C-flumazenil PET of the brain was performed on 20 patients with sALS and nine with homD90A. Statistical parametric mapping was used to directly compare PET images from the two patient groups to identify those areas of relatively reduced cortical (11)C-flumazenil binding that might explain differences in cortical excitability seen using TMS. RESULTS: Increased cortical excitability, demonstrated by reduction in ICI, was seen in the patients with sALS but not the homD90A patients. A relative reduction in cortical (11)C-flumazenil binding was found in the motor and motor association regions of the superior parietal cortices of the patients with sALS. CONCLUSIONS: A cortical inhibitory deficit in sALS was not demonstrable in a homogeneous genetic ALS population of similar disability, suggesting a distinct cortical vulnerability. (11)C-flumazenil PET demonstrated that neuronal loss/dysfunction in motor and motor association areas may underlie this difference. The corollary, that there may be relative preservation of neuronal function in these areas in the homD90A group, has implications for understanding the slower progression of disease in these patients.