Objective biomarkers for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would facilitate the discovery of new treatments. The common neurotrophin receptor p75 is up regulated and the extracellular domain cleaved from injured neurons and peripheral glia in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We have tested the hypothesis that urinary levels of extracellular neurotrophin receptor p75 serve as a biomarker for both human motor amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the SOD1G93A mouse model of the disease. The extracellular domain of neurotrophin receptor p75 was identified in the urine of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients by an immuno-precipitation/western blot procedure and confirmed by mass spectrometry. An ELISA was established to measure urinary extracellular neurotrophin receptor p75. The mean value for urinary extracellular neurotrophin receptor p75 from 28 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients measured by ELISA was 7.9±0.5 ng/mg creatinine and this was significantly higher (p<0.001) than 12 controls (2.6±0.2 ng/mg creatinine) and 19 patients with other neurological disease (Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis; 4.1±0.2 ng/mg creatinine). Pilot data of disease progression rates in 14 MND patients indicates that p75NTRECD levels were significantly higher (p = 0.0041) in 7 rapidly progressing patients as compared to 7 with slowly progressing disease. Extracellular neurotrophin receptor p75 was also readily detected in SOD1G93A mice by immuno-precipitation/western blot before the onset of clinical symptoms. These findings indicate a significant relation between urinary extracellular neurotrophin receptor p75 levels and disease progression and suggests that it may be a useful marker of disease activity and progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The cardiovascular consequences related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are relatively underappreciated. The disease invokes a systematic degeneration of autonomic neurons leading to autonomic dysfunction. We therefore hypothesized that patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may have a predilection to the development of cardiac conduction disorders.
A 65-year-old Caucasian man with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presented with progressive dyspnea and palpitations. A previous evaluation attributed his dyspnea to neuromuscular weakness and he underwent a pulmonary evaluation. Pulmonary function tests did not indicate a worsening from baseline. An electrocardiogram was obtained which demonstrated new third degree atrioventricular block. A previously obtained electrocardiogram indicated normal sinus rhythm. On echocardiogram, a structurally normal heart was observed without significant valvular disease. He was offered a permanent dual chamber pacemaker for definitive treatment, however, he declined.
We believe that his symptoms were probably attributable to atrioventricular block. Patients with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis experience loss of heart rate variability and enhanced vasomotor responses. As patients progress later in the disease, sympathetic denervation and vagal predominance contribute to the development of atrioventricular block. We conducted a query using the Explorys database of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and heart block. The prevalence of heart block was estimated to be 25% higher in patients with the disease as compared to the general population. This is the first reported case that attempts to describe the relationship of atrioventricular block with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
ALS; Arrhythmia; Autonomic dysfunction; Denervation; Heart block
To systematically review evidence bearing on the management of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The authors analyzed studies from 1998 to 2007 to update the 1999 practice parameter. Topics covered in this section include breaking the news, multidisciplinary clinics, symptom management, cognitive and behavioral impairment, communication, and palliative care for patients with ALS.
The authors identified 2 Class I studies, 8 Class II studies, and 30 Class III studies in ALS, but many important areas have been little studied. More high-quality, controlled studies of symptomatic therapies and palliative care are needed to guide management and assess outcomes in patients with ALS.
Multidisciplinary clinic referral should be considered for managing patients with ALS to optimize health care delivery and prolong survival (Level B) and may be considered to enhance quality of life (Level C). For the treatment of refractory sialorrhea, botulinum toxin B should be considered (Level B) and low-dose radiation therapy to the salivary glands may be considered (Level C). For treatment of pseudobulbar affect, dextromethorphan and quinidine should be considered if approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (Level B). For patients who develop fatigue while taking riluzole, withholding the drug may be considered (Level C). Because many patients with ALS demonstrate cognitive impairment, which in some cases meets criteria for dementia, screening for cognitive and behavioral impairment should be considered in patients with ALS (Level B). Other management strategies all lack strong evidence.
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with a dementia meeting the Neary criteria for frontotemporal dementia;
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with behavioral impairment;
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with cognitive impairment;
= botulinum toxin type A;
= botulinum toxin type B;
= Food and Drug Administration;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= noninvasive ventilation;
= percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy;
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no effective treatment. The diagnosis is dependent on the clinical presentation and consistent electrodiagnostic studies. Typically, there is a combination of upper and lower motor neuron signs as well as electrodiagnostic studies indicative of diffuse motor axonal injury. The presentation of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, however, may be variable. At the same time, the diagnosis is essential for patient prognosis and management. It is therefore important to appreciate the range of possible presentations of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
We present the case of a 57-year-old Caucasian man with pathological findings on postmortem examination consistent with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but atypical clinical and electrodiagnostic features. He died after a rapid course of progressive weakness. The patient did not respond to immunosuppressive therapy.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis should be considered in patients with a rapidly progressive, unexplained neuropathic process. This should be true even if there are atypical clinical and electrodiagnostic findings. Absence of response to therapy and the development of upper motor neuron signs should reinforce the possibility that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be present. Since amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal illness, however, the possibility of this disease in patients with atypical clinical features should not diminish the need for a thorough diagnostic evaluation and treatment trials.
A large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72, a gene located on chromosome 9p21, has been recently reported to be responsible for ∼40% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases of European ancestry. The aim of the current article was to describe the phenotype of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases carrying the expansion by providing a detailed clinical description of affected cases from representative multi-generational kindreds, and by analysing the age of onset, gender ratio and survival in a large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We collected DNA and analysed phenotype data for 141 index Italian familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases (21 of Sardinian ancestry) and 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. Pathogenic repeat expansions were detected in 45 (37.5%) patients from mainland Italy, 12 (57.1%) patients of Sardinian ancestry and nine (22.0%) of the 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. The disease was maternally transmitted in 27 (49.1%) pedigrees and paternally transmitted in 28 (50.9%) pedigrees (P = non-significant). On average, children developed disease 7.0 years earlier than their parents [children: 55.8 years (standard deviation 7.9), parents: 62.8 (standard deviation 10.9); P = 0.003]. Parental phenotype influenced the type of clinical symptoms manifested by the child: of the 13 cases where the affected parent had an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia, the affected child also developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia in nine cases. When compared with patients carrying mutations of other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related genes, those with C9ORF72 expansion had commonly a bulbar onset (42.2% compared with 25.0% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.03) and cognitive impairment (46.7% compared with 9.1% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.0001). Median survival from symptom onset among cases carrying C9ORF72 repeat expansion was 3.2 years lower than that of patients carrying TARDBP mutations (5.0 years; 95% confidence interval: 3.6–7.2) and longer than those with FUS mutations (1.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 1.7–2.1). We conclude that C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions were the most frequent mutation in our large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of Italian, Sardinian and German ancestry. Together with mutation of SOD1, TARDBP and FUS, mutations of C9ORF72 account for ∼60% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Italy. Patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions present some phenotypic differences compared with patients with mutations of other genes or with unknown mutations, namely a high incidence of bulbar-onset disease and comorbidity with frontotemporal dementia. Their pedigrees typically display a high frequency of cases with pure frontotemporal dementia, widening the concept of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
Dietary exposure to the cyanotoxin BMAA is suspected to be the cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the Western Pacific Islands. In Europe and North America, this toxin has been identified in the marine environment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis clusters but, to date, only few dietary exposures have been described.
We aimed at identifying cluster(s) of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the Hérault district, a coastal district from Southern France, and to search, in the identified area(s), for the existence of a potential dietary source of BMAA.
A spatio-temporal cluster analysis was performed in the district, considering all incident amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases identified from 1994 to 2009 by our expert center. We investigated the cluster area with serial collections of oysters and mussels that were subsequently analyzed blind for BMAA concentrations.
We found one significant amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cluster (p = 0.0024), surrounding the Thau lagoon, the most important area of shellfish production and consumption along the French Mediterranean coast. BMAA was identified in mussels (1.8 µg/g to 6.0 µg/g) and oysters (0.6 µg/g to 1.6 µg/g). The highest concentrations of BMAA were measured during summer when the highest picocyanobacteria abundances were recorded.
While it is not possible to ascertain a direct link between shellfish consumption and the existence of this ALS cluster, these results add new data to the potential association of BMAA with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, one of the most severe neurodegenerative disorder.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons with a median survival of 2 years. Most patients have no family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but current understanding of such diseases suggests there should be an increased risk to relatives. Furthermore, it is a common question to be asked by patients and relatives in clinic. We therefore set out to determine the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to first degree relatives of patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis attending a specialist clinic. Case records of patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis seen at a tertiary referral centre over a 16-year period were reviewed, and pedigree structures extracted. All individuals who had originally presented with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but who subsequently had an affected first degree relative, were identified. Calculations were age-adjusted using clinic population demographics. Probands (n = 1502), full siblings (n = 1622) and full offspring (n = 1545) were identified. Eight of the siblings and 18 offspring had developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The unadjusted risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis over the observation period was 0.5% for siblings and 1.0% for offspring. Age information was available for 476 siblings and 824 offspring. For this subset, the crude incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was 0.11% per year (0.05–0.21%) in siblings and 0.11% per year (0.06–0.19%) in offspring, and the clinic age-adjusted incidence rate was 0.12% per year (0.04–0.21%) in siblings. By age 85, siblings were found to have an 8-fold increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in comparison to the background population. In practice, this means the risk of remaining unaffected by age 85 dropped from 99.7% to 97.6%. Relatives of people with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have a small but definite increased risk of being affected.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; sporadic case; family history; risk to relatives
Intronic expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat within the C9ORF72 gene causes frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease in both familial and sporadic cases. Initial reports indicate that this variant within the frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spectrum is associated with transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) proteinopathy. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease phenotype is not yet well characterized. We report the clinical and pathological phenotypes associated with pathogenic C9ORF72 mutations in a cohort of 563 cases from Northern England, including 63 with a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One hundred and fifty-eight cases from the cohort (21 familial, 137 sporadic) were post-mortem brain and spinal cord donors. We screened DNA for the C9ORF72 mutation, reviewed clinical case histories and undertook pathological evaluation of brain and spinal cord. Control DNA samples (n = 361) from the same population were also screened. The C9ORF72 intronic expansion was present in 62 cases [11% of the cohort; 27/63 (43%) familial, 35/500 (7%) cases with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease]. Disease duration was significantly shorter in cases with C9ORF72-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (30.5 months) compared with non-C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (36.3 months, P < 0.05). C9ORF72 cases included both limb and bulbar onset disease and all cases showed combined upper and lower motor neuron degeneration (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Thus, clinically, C9ORF72 cases show the features of a relatively rapidly progressive, but otherwise typical, variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with both familial and sporadic presentations. Dementia was present in the patient or a close family member in 22/62 cases with C9ORF72 mutation (35%) based on diagnoses established from retrospective clinical case note review that may underestimate significant cognitive changes in late disease. All the C9ORF72 mutation cases showed classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathology with TDP-43 inclusions in spinal motor neurons. Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and glial inclusions positive for p62 immunostaining in non-motor regions were strongly over-represented in the C9ORF72 cases. Extra-motor pathology in the frontal cortex (P < 0.0005) and the hippocampal CA4 subfield neurons (P < 0.0005) discriminated C9ORF72 cases strongly from the rest of the cohort. Inclusions in CA4 neurons were not present in non-C9ORF72 cases, indicating that this pathology predicts mutation status.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; dementia; neurodegeneration
Acquired neuromyotonia encompasses a group of inflammatory disorders characterized by symptoms reflecting peripheral nerve hyperexcitability, which may be clinically confused in the early stages with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Despite a clear peripheral nerve focus, it remains unclear whether the ectopic activity in acquired neuromyotonia receives a central contribution. To clarify whether cortical hyperexcitability contributes to development of clinical features of acquired neuromyotonia, the present study investigated whether threshold tracking transcranial magnetic stimulation could detect cortical hyperexcitability in acquired neuromyotonia, and whether this technique could differentiate acquired neuromyotonia from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cortical excitability studies were undertaken in 18 patients with acquired neuromyotonia and 104 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with results compared to 62 normal controls. Short-interval intracortical inhibition in patients with acquired neuromyotonia was significantly different when compared to patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (averaged short interval intracortical inhibition acquired neuromyotonia 11.3 ± 1.9%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 2.6 ± 0.9%, P < 0.001). In addition, the motor evoked potential amplitudes (acquired neuromyotonia 21.0 ± 3.1%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 38.1 ± 2.2%, P < 0.0001), intracortical facilitation (acquired neuromyotonia −0.9 ± 1.3%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis −2.3 ± 0.6%, P < 0.0001), resting motor thresholds (acquired neuromyotonia 62.2 ± 1.6%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 57.2 ± 0.9%, P < 0.05) and cortical silent period durations (acquired neuromyotonia 212.8 ± 6.9 ms; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 181.1 ± 4.3 ms, P < 0.0001) were significantly different between patients with acquired neuromyotonia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Threshold tracking transcranial magnetic stimulation established corticomotoneuronal integrity in acquired neuromyotonia, arguing against a contribution of central processes to the development of nerve hyperexcitability in acquired neuromyotonia.
acquired neuromyotonia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cortical excitability
The goal of this study is to determine if regional brain perfusion, as measured by arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI, is correlated with clinical measures of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease severity. The presence of such a relationship would indicate a possible role for ASL perfusion as a marker of disease severity and upper motor neuron involvement in ALS.
Disease severity was assessed in 16 subjects with ALS (age 54 ± 11) using the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS) and the pulmonary function measure, forced vital capacity (FVC). Upper motor neuron involvement was assessed by testing rapid tapping of the fingers and feet. Magnetic resonance perfusion images were coregistered with structural T1-weighted MRI, corrected for partial volume effects using the structural images and normalized to a study-specific atlas. Correlations between perfusion and ALS disease severity were analyzed, using statistical parametric mapping, and including age as a factor. Analyses were adjusted for multiple clusters.
ALS severity, as measured by the ALSFRS and FVC, was correlated with gray matter perfusion. This correlation was predominantly observed in the hemisphere contralateral to the more affected limbs. ALSFRS scores correlated with perfusion in the contralateral frontal and parietal lobe (p < 0.001) and ipsilateral frontal lobe (p < 0.02). FVC scores correlated with gray matter perfusion in contralateral frontal lobe (p < 0.001). Upper motor neuron involvement, as measured by rapid finger tapping, correlated bilaterally with perfusion in the middle cingulate gyrus (p < 0.001).
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) severity is correlated with brain perfusion as measured by arterial spin labeling (ASL) perfusion. This correlation appears to be independent of brain atrophy. ASL perfusion may be a useful tool for monitoring disease progression and assessing treatment effects in ALS.
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale;
= arterial spin labeling;
= Brodmann areas;
= fluorodeoxyglucose PET;
= forced vital capacity;
= Tc-hexamethylpropyleneamine oxime SPECT;
= voxel-based morphometry.
Expansion of GGGGCC repeats in C9orf72 causes familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia, but the underlying mechanism is unclear. Using RNA pulldown and immunohistochemistry in ALS biosamples, Cooper-Knock et al. identify proteins that bind to the repeat expansions. Disrupted RNA splicing and/or nuclear export may underlie C9orf72-ALS pathogenesis.
GGGGCC repeat expansions of C9orf72 represent the most common genetic variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal degeneration, but the mechanism of pathogenesis is unclear. Recent reports have suggested that the transcribed repeat might form toxic RNA foci that sequester various RNA processing proteins. Consensus as to the identity of the binding partners is missing and whole neuronal proteome investigation is needed. Using RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization we first identified nuclear and cytoplasmic RNA foci in peripheral and central nervous system biosamples from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with a repeat expansion of C9orf72 (C9orf72+), but not from those patients without a repeat expansion of C9orf72 (C9orf72−) or control subjects. Moreover, in the cases examined, the distribution of foci-positive neurons correlated with the clinical phenotype (t-test P < 0.05). As expected, RNA foci are ablated by RNase treatment. Interestingly, we identified foci in fibroblasts from an asymptomatic C9orf72+ carrier. We next performed pulldown assays, with GGGGCC5, in conjunction with mass spectrometry analysis, to identify candidate binding partners of the GGGGCC repeat expansion. Proteins containing RNA recognition motifs and involved in splicing, messenger RNA nuclear export and/or translation were significantly enriched. Immunohistochemistry in central nervous system tissue from C9orf72+ patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis demonstrated co-localization of RNA foci with SRSF2, hnRNP H1/F, ALYREF and hnRNP A1 in cerebellar granule cells and with SRSF2, hnRNP H1/F and ALYREF in motor neurons, the primary target of pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Direct binding of proteins to GGGGCC repeat RNA was confirmed in vitro by ultraviolet-crosslinking assays. Co-localization was only detected in a small proportion of RNA foci, suggesting dynamic sequestration rather than irreversible binding. Additional immunohistochemistry demonstrated that neurons with and without RNA foci were equally likely to show nuclear depletion of TDP-43 (χ2
P = 0.75) or poly-GA dipeptide repeat protein inclusions (χ2
P = 0.46). Our findings suggest two non-exclusive pathogenic mechanisms: (i) functional depletion of RNA-processing proteins resulting in disruption of messenger RNA splicing; and (ii) licensing of expanded C9orf72 pre-messenger RNA for nuclear export by inappropriate association with messenger RNA export adaptor protein(s) leading to cytoplasmic repeat associated non-ATG translation and formation of potentially toxic dipeptide repeat protein.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; pathology; genetics; fluorescence imaging
Evidence from human post mortem, in vivo and animal model studies implicates the neuroimmune system and activated microglia in the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The study aim was to further evaluate in vivo neuroinflammation in individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis using [11C]-PBR28 positron emission tomography. Ten patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (seven males, three females, 38–68 years) and ten age- and [11C]-PBR28 binding affinity-matched healthy volunteers (six males, four females, 33–65 years) completed a positron emission tomography scan. Standardized uptake values were calculated from 60 to 90 min post-injection and normalized to whole brain mean. Voxel-wise analysis showed increased binding in the motor cortices and corticospinal tracts in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis compared to healthy controls (pFWE < 0.05). Region of interest analysis revealed increased [11C]-PBR28 binding in the precentral gyrus in patients (normalized standardized uptake value = 1.15) compared to controls (1.03, p < 0.05). In patients those values were positively correlated with upper motor neuron burden scores (r = 0.69, p < 0.05), and negatively correlated with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis functional rating scale (r = –0.66, p < 0.05). Increased in vivo glial activation in motor cortices, that correlates with phenotype, complements previous histopathological reports. Further studies will determine the role of [11C]-PBR28 as a marker of treatments that target neuroinflammation.
•We used PET to image in vivo glial activation in the brain of patients with ALS.•Increased [11C]PBR28 binding was observed in motor cortices in patients with ALS.•Glial activation in the motor cortex correlated with ALS disease severity.•Findings suggest clinical relevance of brain inflammation measured in vivo in ALS.•[11C]-PBR28 could be used as an in vivo marker of upper motor neuron injury in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Positron emission tomography; [11C]PBR-28; Neuroinflammation; Microglia; Motor cortex; ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALSFRS-R, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis functional rating scale revised; FWE, family-wise error rate; MR, magnetic resonance; PBR-28, peripheral benzodiazepine receptor 28; PET, positron emission tomography; SUV, standardized uptake value; TSPO, 18 kDa translocator protein; UMNB, upper motor neuron burden scale; VC, vital capacity.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by degeneration of motoneuron cells in anterior spinal horns. There is a need for early and accurate diagnosis with this condition. In this case report we used two complementary methods: scanning electron microscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. This is the first report to our knowledge of microparticles in the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
An 80-year-old Swedish man of Caucasian ethnicity presented to our facility with symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis starting a year before his first hospital examination, such as muscle weakness and twitching in his right hand progressing to arms, body and leg muscles. Electromyography showed classical neurophysiological findings of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Routine blood sample results were normal. A lumbar puncture was performed as a routine investigation and his cerebrospinal fluid was normal with regard to cell count and protein levels, and there were no signs of inflammation. However, scanning electron microscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting showed pronounced abnormalities compared to healthy controls. Flow cytometry analysis of two fractions of cerebrospinal fluid from our patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was used to measure the specific binding of antibodies to CD42a, CD144 and CD45, and of phosphatidylserine to lactadherin. Our patient displayed over 100 times more phosphatidylserine-positive microparticles and over 400 times more cell-derived microparticles of leukocyte origin in his cerebrospinal fluid compared to healthy control subjects. The first cerebrospinal fluid fraction contained about 50% more microparticles than the second fraction. The scanning electron microscopy filters used with cerebrospinal fluid from our patient were filled with compact aggregates of spherical particles of lipid appearance, sticking together in a viscous batter. The quantitative increase in scanning electron microscopy findings corresponded to the flow cytometry result of an increase in leukocyte-derived microparticles.
Microparticles represent subcellular arrangements that can influence the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and may serve as biomarkers for underlying cellular disturbances. The increased number of leukocyte-derived microparticles with normal cell counts in cerebrospinal fluid may contribute to the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis inflammatory process by formation of immune complexes of prion-like propagation, possibly due to misfolded proteins. The two complementary methods used in this report may be additional tools for revealing the etiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for early diagnostic purposes and for evaluation of clinical trials, long-term follow-up studies and elucidating the pathophysiology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Antibodies; Cerebrospinal fluid; Complementary methods; Electromyography; Flow cytometry; Microparticles; Phosphatidylserine; Scanning electron microscopy
Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are closely related clinical syndromes with overlapping molecular pathogenesis. Several families have been reported with members affected by frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both, which show genetic linkage to a region on chromosome 9p21. Recently, two studies identified the FTD/ALS gene defect on chromosome 9p as an expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72). In the present study, we provide detailed analysis of the clinical features and neuropathology for 16 unrelated families with frontotemporal dementia caused by the C9ORF72 mutation. All had an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Eight families had a combination of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while the other eight had a pure frontotemporal dementia phenotype. Clinical information was available for 30 affected members of the 16 families. There was wide variation in age of onset (mean = 54.3, range = 34–74 years) and disease duration (mean = 5.3, range = 1–16 years). Early diagnoses included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (n = 15), progressive non-fluent aphasia (n = 5), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 9) and progressive non-fluent aphasia–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 1). Heterogeneity in clinical presentation was also common within families. However, there was a tendency for the phenotypes to converge with disease progression; seven subjects had final clinical diagnoses of both frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and all of those with an initial progressive non-fluent aphasia diagnosis subsequently developed significant behavioural abnormalities. Twenty-one affected family members came to autopsy and all were found to have transactive response DNA binding protein with Mr 43 kD (TDP-43) pathology in a wide neuroanatomical distribution. All had involvement of the extramotor neocortex and hippocampus (frontotemporal lobar degeneration-TDP) and all but one case (clinically pure frontotemporal dementia) had involvement of lower motor neurons, characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In addition, a consistent and relatively specific pathological finding was the presence of neuronal inclusions in the cerebellar cortex that were ubiquitin/p62-positive but TDP-43-negative. Our findings indicate that the C9ORF72 mutation is a major cause of familial frontotemporal dementia with TDP-43 pathology, that likely accounts for the majority of families with combined frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presentation, and further support the concept that frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis represent a clinicopathological spectrum of disease with overlapping molecular pathogenesis.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72, TDP-43
Mutations in the gene superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) are causative for familial forms of the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. When the first SOD1 mutations were identified they were postulated to give rise to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis through a loss of function mechanism, but experimental data soon showed that the disease arises from a—still unknown—toxic gain of function, and the possibility that loss of function plays a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathogenesis was abandoned. Although loss of function is not causative for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, here we re-examine two decades of evidence regarding whether loss of function may play a modifying role in SOD1–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. From analysing published data from patients with SOD1–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, we find a marked loss of SOD1 enzyme activity arising from almost all mutations. We continue to examine functional data from all Sod1 knockout mice and we find obvious detrimental effects within the nervous system with, interestingly, some specificity for the motor system. Here, we bring together historical and recent experimental findings to conclude that there is a possibility that SOD1 loss of function may play a modifying role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This likelihood has implications for some current therapies aimed at knocking down the level of mutant protein in patients with SOD1–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Finally, the wide-ranging phenotypes that result from loss of function indicate that SOD1 gene sequences should be screened in diseases other than amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; superoxide dismutase 1; loss of function
OBJECTIVES—to find out if conventional and
automatic needle EMG of the tongue can be helpful in the diagnosis and
differentiation of limb and bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
METHODS—Motor unit action potential (MUAP)
analysis and peak ratio interference pattern analysis were performed in
the right genioglossus muscle of 30 healthy subjects aged 30-81 years,
10 patients aged 49-73 years with limb onset amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, and eight patients aged 52-75 years with bulbar onset
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Electrical activity was sampled via
standard concentric needle electrodes with a commercially available EMG recorder.
RESULTS—Normal mean (2SD) MUAP duration was 6.6 (1.5) ms. Normal mean (2SD) MUAP amplitude was 224 (97.4) µV. Normal
mean (2SD) peak ratio (PR), turns/second (T/s), amplitude/turn (A/T),
and time intervals (TI1, TI2, TI3) were 1.68 (0.56), 732 (303.9), 446 (180.3) µV, 2.62 (0.34), 2.31 (0.14), and 1.01 (0.50) respectively.
Mean MUAP duration and amplitude were significantly increased in limb onset (P=0.0001 and P=0.013) and bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (P=0.0001 and P=0.017). Peak ratio indices stayed unchanged in limb onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but were significantly decreased (PR, T/s, A/T, TI1, and TI2) or increased (TI3) in bulbar onset disease. The sensitivity of the MUAP analysis was 70% in limb
and 75% in bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The sensitivity
of the peak ratio interference pattern analysis was 20% in limb and
100% in bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Subclinical
involvement of the tongue was found in 20% of the patients with limb
onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and could be more accurately
assessed with MUAP analysis than with automatic EMG.
CONCLUSIONS—both conventional and automatic
needle EMG of the tongue are valuable electrophysiological devices to
assess the clinical and subclinical involvement of the tongue in
patients with limb and bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Evaluating a new use for an existing drug can be expensive and time consuming. Providers and patients must all too often rely upon their own individual-level experience to inform clinical practice, which generates only anecdotal and unstructured data. While academic-led clinical trials are occasionally conducted to test off-label uses of drugs with expired patents, this is relatively rare. In this work, we explored how a patient-centered online research platform could supplement traditional trials to create a richer understanding of medical products postmarket by efficiently aggregating structured patient-reported data. PatientsLikeMe is a tool for patients, researchers, and caregivers (currently 82,000 members across 11 condition-based communities) that helps users make treatment decisions, manage symptoms, and improve outcomes. Members enter demographic information, longitudinal treatment, symptoms, outcome data, and treatment evaluations. These are reflected back as longitudinal health profiles and aggregated reports. Over the last 3 years, patients have entered treatment histories and evaluations on thousands of medical products. These data may aid in evaluating the effectiveness and safety of some treatments more efficiently and over a longer period of time course than is feasible through traditional trials.
The objective of our study was to examine the illustrative cases of amitriptyline and modafinil – drugs commonly used off-label.
We analyzed patient-reported treatment histories and drug evaluations for each drug, examining prevalence, treatment purpose, and evaluations of effectiveness, side effects, and burden.
There were 1948 treatment histories for modafinil and 1394 treatment reports for amitriptyline reported across five PatientsLikeMe communities (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, mood conditions, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In these reports, the majority of members reported taking the drug for off-label uses. Only 34 of the 1755 (1%) reporting purpose used modafinil for an approved purpose (narcolepsy or sleep apnea). Only 104 out of 1197 members (9%) reported taking amitriptyline for its approved indication, depression. Members taking amitriptyline for off-label purposes rated the drug as more effective than those who were taking it for its approved indication. While dry mouth is a commonly reported side effect of amitriptyline for most patients, 88 of 220 (40%) of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on the drug reported taking advantage of this side effect to treat their symptom of excess saliva.
Patient-reported outcomes, like those entered within PatientsLikeMe, offer a unique real-time approach to understand utilization and performance of treatments across many conditions. These patient-reported data can provide a new source of evidence about secondary uses and potentially identify targets for treatments to be studied systematically in traditional efficacy trials.
Off-label; Internet; research; patient platform; methods; online community
OBJECTIVE: To investigate MRI abnormalities in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. METHODS: Fourteen patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis underwent MRI of the head and spinal cord using T1 and T2 weighted images. Forty age matched controls (29 with other neurological diseases, 11 with non-neurological diseases) underwent MRI of the cervical spinal cord using T1 and T2 weighted images. RESULTS: In all the control patients, the signal intensity of the posterior column was equal or slightly hypointense compared with the anterolateral column of the cervical spinal cord on T1 weighted images. However, eight of 14 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis showed pronounced high signal intensity in the anterolateral column of the spinal cord on T1 weighted MRI, which also disclosed high signal intensity of the intracranial corticospinal tract in two of the 14 patients. T2 weighted MRI demonstrated high signal intensity of the lateral corticospinal tract of the spinal cord in two, high signal intensity of the intracranial corticospinal tract in five, and low signal intensity of the motor cortex in six of the 14 patients. Two of the 14 patients showed no abnormal findings on MRI. CONCLUSIONS: High signal intensity of the anterolateral column of the spinal cord of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a new imaging abnormality and may be useful for the diagnosis of this disease.
Primary lateral sclerosis is a sporadic disorder characterized by slowly progressive corticospinal dysfunction. Primary lateral sclerosis differs from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by its lack of lower motor neuron signs and long survival. Few pathological studies have been carried out on patients with primary lateral sclerosis, and the relationship between primary lateral sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis remains uncertain. To detect in vivo structural differences between the two disorders, diffusion tensor imaging of white matter tracts was carried out in 19 patients with primary lateral sclerosis, 18 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 19 age-matched controls. Fibre tracking was used to reconstruct the intracranial portion of the corticospinal tract and three regions of the corpus callosum: the genu, splenium and callosal fibres connecting the motor cortices. Both patient groups had reduced fractional anisotropy, a measure associated with axonal organization, and increased mean diffusivity of the reconstructed corticospinal and callosal motor fibres compared with controls, without changes in the genu or splenium. Voxelwise comparison of the whole brain white matter using tract-based spatial statistics confirmed the differences between patients and controls in the diffusion properties of the corticospinal tracts and motor fibres of the callosum. This analysis further revealed differences in the regional distribution of white matter alterations between the patient groups. In patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the greatest reduction in fractional anisotropy occurred in the distal portions of the intracranial corticospinal tract, consistent with a distal axonal degeneration. In patients with primary lateral sclerosis, the greatest loss of fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity occurred in the subcortical white matter underlying the motor cortex, with reduced volume, suggesting tissue loss. Clinical measures of upper motor neuron dysfunction correlated with reductions in fractional anisotropy in the corticospinal tract in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and increased mean diffusivity and volume loss of the corticospinal tract in patients with primary lateral sclerosis. Changes in the diffusion properties of the motor fibres of the corpus callosum were strongly correlated with changes in corticospinal fibres in patients, but not in controls. These findings indicate that degeneration is not selective for corticospinal neurons, but affects callosal neurons within the motor cortex in motor neuron disorders.
diffusion tensor imaging; diffusion tensor tractography; motor neuron disorders; primary lateral sclerosis; corpus callosum
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterised by loss of motor neurons leading to severe weakness and death from respiratory failure within 3-5 years. Riluzole prolongs survival in ALS. A published report has suggested a dramatic effect of lithium carbonate on survival. 44 patients were studied, with 16 randomly selected to take LiCO3 and riluzole and 28 allocated to take riluzole alone. In the group treated with lithium, no patients had died (i.e., 100% survival) at the end of the study (15 months from entry), compared to 71% surviving in the riluzole-only group. Although the trial can be criticised on several grounds, there is a substantial rationale from other laboratory studies that lithium is worth investigating therapeutically in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
LiCALS is a multi-centre double-blind randomised parallel group controlled trial of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of lithium carbonate (LiCO3) at doses to achieve stable 'therapeutic' plasma levels (0.4-0.8 mmol/L), plus standard treatment, versus matched placebo plus standard treatment, in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The study will be based in the UK, in partnership with the MND Association and DeNDRoN (the Dementias and Neurodegnerative Diseases Clinical Research Network). 220 patients will be recruited. All patients will be on the standard treatment for ALS of riluzole 100 mg daily. The primary outcome measure will be death from any cause at 18 months defined from the date of randomisation. Secondary outcome measures will be changes in three functional rating scales, the ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised, The EuroQOL (EQ-5D), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
Eligible patients will have El Escorial Possible, Laboratory-supported Probable, Probable or Definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with disease duration between 6 months and 36 months (inclusive), vital capacity ≥ 60% of predicted within 1 month prior to randomisation and age at least18 years.
Patient recruitment began in June 2009 and the last patient is expected to complete the trial protocol in November 2011.
Current controlled trials ISRCTN83178718
The immune system protects the organism from foreign invaders and foreign substances and is involved in physiological functions that range from tissue repair to neurocognition. However, an excessive or dysregulated immune response can cause immunopathology and disease. A 39-year-old man was affected by severe hepatosplenic schistosomiasis mansoni and by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One question that arose was, whether there was a relation between the parasitic and the neurodegenerative disease. IL-17, a proinflammatory cytokine, is produced mainly by T helper-17 CD4 cells, a recently discovered new lineage of effector CD4 T cells. Experimental mouse models of schistosomiasis have shown that IL-17 is a key player in the immunopathology of schistosomiasis. There are also reports that suggest that IL-17 might have an important role in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is hypothesized that the factors that might have led to increased IL-17 in the hepatosplenic schistosomiasis mansoni might also have contributed to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the described patient. A multitude of environmental factors, including infections, xenobiotic substances, intestinal microbiota, and vitamin D deficiency, that are able to induce a proinflammatory immune response polarization, might favor the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in predisposed individuals.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons, with a median survival of 2–3 years. Although various phenotypic and research diagnostic classification systems exist and several prognostic models have been generated, there is no staging system. Staging criteria for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would help to provide a universal and objective measure of disease progression with benefits for patient care, resource allocation, research classifications and clinical trial design. We therefore sought to define easily identified clinical milestones that could be shown to occur at specific points in the disease course, reflect disease progression and impact prognosis and treatment. A tertiary referral centre clinical database was analysed, consisting of 1471 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis seen between 1993 and 2007. Milestones were defined as symptom onset (functional involvement by weakness, wasting, spasticity, dysarthria or dysphagia of one central nervous system region defined as bulbar, upper limb, lower limb or diaphragmatic), diagnosis, functional involvement of a second region, functional involvement of a third region, needing gastrostomy and non-invasive ventilation. Milestone timings were standardized as proportions of time elapsed through the disease course using information from patients who had died by dividing time to a milestone by disease duration. Milestones occurred at predictable proportions of the disease course. Diagnosis occurred at 35% through the disease course, involvement of a second region at 38%, a third region at 61%, need for gastrostomy at 77% and need for non-invasive ventilation at 80%. We therefore propose a simple staging system for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Stage 1: symptom onset (involvement of first region); Stage 2A: diagnosis; Stage 2B: involvement of second region; Stage 3: involvement of third region; Stage 4A: need for gastrostomy; and Stage 4B: need for non-invasive ventilation. Validation of this staging system will require further studies in other populations, in population registers and in other clinic databases. The standardized times to milestones may well vary between different studies and populations, although the stages themselves and their meanings are likely to remain unchanged.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; staging; motor neuron disease; natural history; El Escorial criteria
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a relentless and devastating adult-onset neurodegenerative disease with no known cure. In mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, CD4+ T lymphocytes and wild-type microglia potentiate protective inflammatory responses and play a principal role in disease pathoprogression. Using this model, we demonstrate that endogenous T lymphocytes, and more specifically regulatory T lymphocytes, are increased at early slowly progressing stages, augmenting interleukin-4 expression and protective M2 microglia, and are decreased when the disease rapidly accelerates, possibly through the loss of FoxP3 expression in the regulatory T lymphocytes. Without ex vivo activation, the passive transfer of wild-type CD4+ T lymphocytes into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mice lacking functional T lymphocytes lengthened disease duration and prolonged survival. The passive transfer of endogenous regulatory T lymphocytes from early disease stage mutant Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase mice into these amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mice, again without ex vivo activation, were substantially more immunotherapeutic sustaining interleukin-4 levels and M2 microglia, and resulting in lengthened disease duration and prolonged survival; the stable disease phase was extended by 88% using mutant Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase regulatory T lymphocytes. A potential mechanism for this enhanced life expectancy may be mediated by the augmented secretion of interleukin-4 from mutant Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase regulatory T lymphocytes that directly suppressed the toxic properties of microglia; flow cytometric analyses determined that CD4+/CD25+/FoxP3+ T lymphocytes co-expressed interleukin-4 in the same cell. These observations were extended into the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient population where patients with more rapidly progressing disease had decreased numbers of regulatory T lymphocytes; the numbers of regulatory T lymphocytes were inversely correlated with disease progression rates. These data suggest a cellular mechanism whereby endogenous regulatory T lymphocytes are immunocompetent and actively contribute to neuroprotection through their interactions with microglia. Furthermore, these data suggest that immunotherapeutic interventions must begin early in the pathogenic process since immune dysfunction occurs at later stages. Thus, the cumulative mouse and human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis data suggest that increasing the levels of regulatory T lymphocytes in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at early stages in the disease process may be of therapeutic value, and slow the rate of disease progression and stabilize patients for longer periods of time.
regulatory T lymphocytes; microglia; inflammation; IL-4; FoxP3
Menke/Koerner et al. use structural MRI to explore the extent of longitudinal changes in cerebral pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and their relationship to clinical features. A characteristic white matter tract pathological signature is seen cross-sectionally, while cortical involvement dominates longitudinally. This has implications for the development of biomarkers for diagnosis versus therapeutic monitoring.
Diagnosis, stratification and monitoring of disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis currently rely on clinical history and examination. The phenotypic heterogeneity of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, including extramotor cognitive impairments is now well recognized. Candidate biomarkers have shown variable sensitivity and specificity, and studies have been mainly undertaken only cross-sectionally. Sixty patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (without a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia) underwent baseline multimodal magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Grey matter pathology was identified through analysis of T1-weighted images using voxel-based morphometry. White matter pathology was assessed using tract-based spatial statistics analysis of indices derived from diffusion tensor imaging. Cross-sectional analyses included group comparison with a group of healthy controls (n = 36) and correlations with clinical features, including regional disability, clinical upper motor neuron signs and cognitive impairment. Patients were offered 6-monthly follow-up MRI, and the last available scan was used for a separate longitudinal analysis (n = 27). In cross-sectional study, the core signature of white matter pathology was confirmed within the corticospinal tract and callosal body, and linked strongly to clinical upper motor neuron burden, but also to limb disability subscore and progression rate. Localized grey matter abnormalities were detected in a topographically appropriate region of the left motor cortex in relation to bulbar disability, and in Broca’s area and its homologue in relation to verbal fluency. Longitudinal analysis revealed progressive and widespread changes in the grey matter, notably including the basal ganglia. In contrast there was limited white matter pathology progression, in keeping with a previously unrecognized limited change in individual clinical upper motor neuron scores, despite advancing disability. Although a consistent core white matter pathology was found cross-sectionally, grey matter pathology was dominant longitudinally, and included progression in clinically silent areas such as the basal ganglia, believed to reflect their wider cortical connectivity. Such changes were significant across a range of apparently sporadic patients rather than being a genotype-specific effect. It is also suggested that the upper motor neuron lesion in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be relatively constant during the established symptomatic period. These findings have implications for the development of effective diagnostic versus therapeutic monitoring magnetic resonance imaging biomarkers. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be characterized initially by a predominantly white matter tract pathological signature, evolving as a widespread cortical network degeneration.
motor neuron disease; biomarker; magnetic resonance imaging; voxel-based morphometry; diffusion tensor imaging
Lithium has neuroprotective effects in cell and animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and a small pilot study in patients with ALS showed a significant effect of lithium on survival. We aimed to assess whether lithium improves survival in patients with ALS.
The lithium carbonate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (LiCALS) trial is a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral lithium taken daily for 18 months in patients with ALS. Patients aged at least 18 years who had ALS according to the revised El Escorial criteria, had disease duration between 6 and 36 months, and were taking riluzole were recruited from ten centres in the UK. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either lithium or matched placebo tablets. Randomisation was via an online system done at the level of the individual by block randomisation with randomly varying block sizes, stratified by study centre and site of disease onset (limb or bulbar). All patients and assessing study personnel were masked to treatment assignment. The primary endpoint was the rate of survival at 18 months and was analysed by intention to treat. This study is registered with Eudract, number 2008-006891-31.
Between May 26, 2009, and Nov 10, 2011, 243 patients were screened, 214 of whom were randomly assigned to receive lithium (107 patients) or placebo (107 patients). Two patients discontinued treatment and one died before the target therapeutic lithium concentration could be achieved. 63 (59%) of 107 patients in the placebo group and 54 (50%) of 107 patients in the lithium group were alive at 18 months. The survival functions did not differ significantly between groups (Mantel-Cox log-rank χ2 on 1 df=1·64; p=0·20). After adjusting for study centre and site of onset using logistic regression, the relative odds of survival at 18 months (lithium vs placebo) was 0·71 (95% CI 0·40–1·24). 56 patients in the placebo group and 61 in the lithium group had at least one serious adverse event.
We found no evidence of benefit of lithium on survival in patients with ALS, but nor were there safety concerns, which had been identified in previous studies with less conventional designs. This finding emphasises the importance of pursuing adequately powered trials with clear endpoints when testing new treatments.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.