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  • Progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus: glycine and NMDA receptor antibodies.

    24 October 2018

    BACKGROUND: The syndrome of progressive encephalopathy with limb rigidity has been historically termed progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus (PERM) or stiff-person syndrome plus. METHODS: The case is presented of a previously healthy 28-year-old man with a rapidly fatal form of PERM developing over 2 months. RESULTS: Serum antibodies to both NMDA receptors (NMDAR) and glycine receptors (GlyR) were detected postmortem, and examination of the brain confirmed an autoimmune encephalomyelitis, with particular involvement of hippocampal pyramidal and cerebellar Purkinje cells and relative sparing of the neocortex. No evidence for an underlying systemic neoplasm was found. CONCLUSION: This case displayed not only the clinical features of PERM, previously associated with GlyR antibodies, but also some of the features associated with NMDAR antibodies. This unusual combination of antibodies may be responsible for the particularly progressive course and sudden death.

  • SMN deficiency disrupts brain development in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy.

    24 October 2018

    Reduced expression of the survival motor neuron (SMN) gene causes the childhood motor neuron disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Low levels of ubiquitously expressed SMN protein result in the degeneration of lower motor neurons, but it remains unclear whether other regions of the nervous system are also affected. Here we show that reduced levels of SMN lead to impaired perinatal brain development in a mouse model of severe SMA. Regionally selective changes in brain morphology were apparent in areas normally associated with higher SMN levels in the healthy postnatal brain, including the hippocampus, and were associated with decreased cell density, reduced cell proliferation and impaired hippocampal neurogenesis. A comparative proteomics analysis of the hippocampus from SMA and wild-type littermate mice revealed widespread modifications in expression levels of proteins regulating cellular proliferation, migration and development when SMN levels were reduced. This study reveals novel roles for SMN protein in brain development and maintenance and provides the first insights into cellular and molecular pathways disrupted in the brain in a severe form of SMA.

  • LRRK2 regulates autophagic activity and localizes to specific membrane microdomains in a novel human genomic reporter cellular model.

    24 October 2018

    Leucine rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) mutations are the most common genetic cause of Parkinson's disease (PD) although LRRK2 function remains unclear. We report a new role for LRRK2 in regulating autophagy and describe the recruitment of LRRK2 to the endosomal-autophagic pathway and specific membrane subdomains. Using a novel human genomic reporter cellular model, we found LRRK2 to locate to membrane microdomains such as the neck of caveolae, microvilli/filopodia and intraluminal vesicles of multivesicular bodies (MVBs). In human brain and in cultured human cells LRRK2 was present in cytoplasmic puncta corresponding to MVBs and autophagic vacuoles (AVs). Expression of the common R1441C mutation from a genomic DNA construct caused impaired autophagic balance evident by the accumulation of MVBs and large AVs containing incompletely degraded material and increased levels of p62. Furthermore, the R1441C mutation induced the formation of skein-like abnormal MVBs. Conversely, LRRK2 siRNA knockdown increased autophagic activity and prevented cell death caused by inhibition of autophagy in starvation conditions. The work necessitated developing a new, more efficient recombineering strategy, which we termed Sequential insertion of Target with ovErlapping Primers (STEP) to seamlessly fuse the green fluorescent protein-derivative YPet to the human LRRK2 protein in the LRRK2 genomic locus carried by a bacterial artificial chromosome. Taken together our data demonstrate the functional involvement of LRRK2 in the endosomal-autophagic pathway and the recruitment to specific membrane microdomains in a physiological human gene expression model suggesting a novel function for this important PD-related protein.

  • Reduction of elevated IGF-1 levels in coincident amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and acromegaly.

    24 October 2018

    We report a patient presenting with ALS in whom acromegaly was later confirmed. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) has been tried in the treatment of ALS and despite equivocal results from clinical trials, efforts have continued to try to harness the significant positive effects on motor neuron growth observed in vitro and in survival of mouse models of the disease. One subsequent study has reported an association between higher circulating serum IGF-1 levels and longer disease duration in ALS patients. Concern therefore arose in our case that treatment of the acromegaly with a somatostatin analogue might adversely affect the natural course of his ALS through lowering of potentially beneficial IGF-1 levels. Through clinical observation and prognostic modelling we suggest that this concern was unfounded. The potential interaction of these two rarely coincident disorders in our patient is discussed.

  • Geographical clustering of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in South-East England: a population study.

    24 October 2018

    BACKGROUND: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disease of motor neurons that causes progressive paralysis and eventually results in death from respiratory failure. Environmental factors that trigger ALS might result in a pattern of geographical clustering of cases. We tested this hypothesis using the South-East England ALS population register, which covers south-east London, Kent and parts of neighbouring counties. METHODS: The register's catchment area was divided into postcode districts and sectors. The expected rates of ALS (adjusted for age and sex) were compared with the observed rates using a standardised residuals method and the SaTScan programme. RESULTS: There were 406 cases of ALS identified in the catchment area during the study period. Four of the 126 postcode districts, all in Greater London, had residuals >2.5 SDs from the mean. Similarly, there were 15 postcode sectors (out of 420) that had residuals >1.96 SDs from the mean. Nine of these were in Greater London. SaTScan identified an area that had a 5.61-km radius in which the relative risk of ALS was 1.70 (p = 0.012). This area overlapped with the postcode districts and some of the sectors identified using the residuals method. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest an excess of ALS cases in some postcode districts in south-east England.

  • Integration of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

    24 October 2018

    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a system failure is a concept supported by the finding of consistent extramotor as well as motor cerebral pathology. The functional correlates of the structural changes detected using advanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging and voxel-based morphometry have not been extensively studied. A group of 25 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was compared to healthy control subjects using a multi-modal neuroimaging approach comprising T1-weighted, diffusion-weighted and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Using probabilistic tractography, a grey matter connection network was defined based upon the prominent corticospinal tract and corpus callosum involvement demonstrated by white matter tract-based spatial statistics. This 'amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-specific' network included motor, premotor and supplementary motor cortices, pars opercularis and motor-related thalamic nuclei. A novel analysis protocol, using this disease-specific grey matter network as an input for a dual-regression analysis, was then used to assess changes in functional connectivity directly associated with this network. A spatial pattern of increased functional connectivity spanning sensorimotor, premotor, prefrontal and thalamic regions was found. A composite of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging measures also allowed the qualitative discrimination of patients from controls. An integrated structural and functional connectivity approach therefore identified apparently dichotomous processes characterizing the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cerebral network failure, in which there was increased functional connectivity within regions of decreased structural connectivity. Patients with slower rates of disease progression showed connectivity measures with values closer to healthy controls, raising the possibility that functional connectivity increases might not simply represent a physiological compensation to reduced structural integrity. One alternative possibility is that increased functional connectivity reflects a progressive loss of inhibitory cortical influence as part of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathogenesis, which might then have relevance to future therapeutic strategies. © The Author (2011).

  • Integration of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

    24 October 2018

    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a system failure is a concept supported by the finding of consistent extramotor as well as motor cerebral pathology. The functional correlates of the structural changes detected using advanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging and voxel-based morphometry have not been extensively studied. A group of 25 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was compared to healthy control subjects using a multi-modal neuroimaging approach comprising T(1)-weighted, diffusion-weighted and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Using probabilistic tractography, a grey matter connection network was defined based upon the prominent corticospinal tract and corpus callosum involvement demonstrated by white matter tract-based spatial statistics. This 'amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-specific' network included motor, premotor and supplementary motor cortices, pars opercularis and motor-related thalamic nuclei. A novel analysis protocol, using this disease-specific grey matter network as an input for a dual-regression analysis, was then used to assess changes in functional connectivity directly associated with this network. A spatial pattern of increased functional connectivity spanning sensorimotor, premotor, prefrontal and thalamic regions was found. A composite of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging measures also allowed the qualitative discrimination of patients from controls. An integrated structural and functional connectivity approach therefore identified apparently dichotomous processes characterizing the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cerebral network failure, in which there was increased functional connectivity within regions of decreased structural connectivity. Patients with slower rates of disease progression showed connectivity measures with values closer to healthy controls, raising the possibility that functional connectivity increases might not simply represent a physiological compensation to reduced structural integrity. One alternative possibility is that increased functional connectivity reflects a progressive loss of inhibitory cortical influence as part of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathogenesis, which might then have relevance to future therapeutic strategies.

  • The internet for self-diagnosis and prognostication in ALS.

    24 October 2018

    Persons with ALS, and those close to them, may use the internet to explore symptoms prior to formal diagnosis, and as a source of information about prognosis and treatment thereafter. We used an internet search engine to rank the sensitivity of a variety of symptom search terms a patient might use for the diagnosis of ALS/MND. We also studied search engine responses to questions about life expectancy and possible 'cure'. An internet search engine in relation to ALS currently lacks sensitivity, and results varied greatly with only minor differences in the search terms used. The prognostic information did not reflect the inherent heterogeneity. Results in relation to 'cure' were misleading and may promulgate false hopes. There is a need to guide those with ALS (and particularly their children) to sources of reliable web-based information in addition to open discussion.