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1.  The Extracellular Domain of Neurotrophin Receptor p75 as a Candidate Biomarker for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87398.
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.
PMCID: PMC3903651  PMID: 24475283
2.  Autonomic etiology of heart block in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a case report 
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.
Case presentation
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.
PMCID: PMC4088295  PMID: 24961916
ALS; Arrhythmia; Autonomic dysfunction; Denervation; Heart block
3.  A patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and atypical clinical and electrodiagnostic features: a case report 
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.
Case presentation
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.
PMCID: PMC3240922  PMID: 22047468
4.  New considerations in the design of clinical trials for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Clinical investigation  2011;1(10):1375-1389.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating neurodegenerative disease caused by loss of motor neurons. Its pathophysiology remains unknown, but progress has been made in understanding its genetic and biochemical basis. Clinical trialists are working to translate basic science successes into human trials with more efficiency, in the hope of finding successful treatments. In the future, new preclinical models, including patient-derived stem cells may augment transgenic animal models as preclinical tools. Biomarker discovery projects aim to identify markers of disease onset and progression for use in clinical trials. New trial designs are reducing study time, improving efficiency and helping to keep pace with the increasing rate of basic and translational discoveries. Ongoing trials with novel designs are paving the way for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis clinical research.
PMCID: PMC3335743  PMID: 22545191
antisense oligonucleotide; continual reassessment model; futility design study; induced pluripotent stem cells; selection design study
5.  The risk to relatives of patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2011;134(12):3451-3454.
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.
PMCID: PMC3235555  PMID: 21933809
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; sporadic case; family history; risk to relatives
6.  Is SOD1 loss of function involved in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? 
Brain  2013;136(8):2342-2358.
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.
PMCID: PMC3722346  PMID: 23687121
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; superoxide dismutase 1; loss of function
7.  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Canadian Family Physician  2006;52(12):1563-1569.
To discuss the epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, expected course, prognosis, and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disorder of the nervous system associated with progressive weakness.
PubMed and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched using the MeSH headings “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” “therapy,” “epidemiology,” and “etiology.” Articles containing the best available evidence were reviewed. Most provided level II and III evidence. There were some level I drug trials.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is associated with progressive dysarthria, dysphagia, and weakness in the extremities. Diagnosis is based on physical examination, electrophysiology, and excluding other confounding conditions. There is no cure for this devastating disorder. Certain treatments, however, can improve survival and quality of life.
Because ALS is a complex disease, care of ALS patients is best provided at multidisciplinary clinics that specialize in managing patients with this disorder.
PMCID: PMC1783756  PMID: 17279237
8.  Stem cell technology for the study and treatment of motor neuron diseases 
Regenerative medicine  2011;6(2):201-213.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy are devastating neurodegenerative diseases that lead to the specific loss of motor neurons. Recently, stem cell technologies have been developed for the investigation and treatment of both diseases. Here we discuss the different stem cells currently being studied for mechanistic discovery and therapeutic development, including embryonic, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. We also present supporting evidence for the utilization of stem cell technology in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy, and describe key issues that must be considered for the transition of stem cell therapies for motor neuron diseases from bench to bedside. Finally, we discuss the first-in-human Phase I trial currently underway examining the safety and feasibility of intraspinal stem cell injections in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients as a foundation for translating stem cell therapies for various neurological diseases.
PMCID: PMC3154698  PMID: 21391854
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; induced pluripotent stem cells; motor neuron disease; Phase I clinical trial; spinal muscular atrophy; stem cells; translational medicine
9.  A proposed staging system for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2012;135(3):847-852.
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.
PMCID: PMC3286327  PMID: 22271664
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; staging; motor neuron disease; natural history; El Escorial criteria
10.  Practice Parameter update: The care of the patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Multidisciplinary care, symptom management, and cognitive/behavioral impairment (an evidence-based review) 
Neurology  2009;73(15):1227-1233.
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;
= dextromethorphan;
= Food and Drug Administration;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= noninvasive ventilation;
= percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy;
= quinidine.
PMCID: PMC2764728  PMID: 19822873
11.  Clinical characteristics of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis carrying the pathogenic GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion of C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):784-793.
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.
PMCID: PMC3286333  PMID: 22366794
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
12.  Dietary BMAA Exposure in an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Cluster from Southern France 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83406.
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.
PMCID: PMC3862759  PMID: 24349504
13.  White matter alterations differ in primary lateral sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2011;134(9):2642-2655.
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.
PMCID: PMC3170531  PMID: 21798965
diffusion tensor imaging; diffusion tensor tractography; motor neuron disorders; primary lateral sclerosis; corpus callosum
14.  Mechanisms of Oxidative Damage in Multiple Sclerosis and Neurodegenerative Diseases: Therapeutic Modulation via Fumaric Acid Esters 
Oxidative stress plays a crucial role in many neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s as well as Huntington’s disease. Inflammation and oxidative stress are also thought to promote tissue damage in multiple sclerosis (MS). Recent data point at an important role of anti-oxidative pathways for tissue protection in chronic-progressive MS, particularly involving the transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Thus, novel therapeutics enhancing cellular resistance to free radicals could prove useful for MS treatment. Here, fumaric acid esters (FAE) are a new, orally available treatment option which had already been tested in phase II/III MS trials demonstrating beneficial effects on relapse rates and magnetic resonance imaging markers. In vitro, application of dimethylfumarate (DMF) leads to stabilization of Nrf2, activation of Nrf2-dependent transcriptional activity and abundant synthesis of detoxifying proteins. Furthermore, application of FAE involves direct modification of the inhibitor of Nrf2, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1. On cellular levels, the application of FAE enhances neuronal survival and protects astrocytes against oxidative stress. Increased levels of Nrf2 are detected in the central nervous system of DMF treated mice suffering from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. In EAE, DMF ameliorates the disease course and improves preservation of myelin, axons and neurons. Finally, Nrf2 is also up-regulated in the spinal cord of autopsy specimens from untreated patients with MS, probably as part of a naturally occurring anti-oxidative response. In summary, oxidative stress and anti-oxidative pathways are important players in MS pathophysiology and constitute a promising target for future MS therapies like FAE.
PMCID: PMC3472775  PMID: 23109883
Fumaric acid ester; Nrf2; neurodegeneration; oxidative stress; multiple sclerosis; cytoprotektive
15.  Brain-Delivery of Zinc-Ions as Potential Treatment for Neurological Diseases: Mini Review 
Drug delivery letters  2011;1(1):13-23.
Homeostasis of metal ions such as Zn2+ is essential for proper brain function. Moreover, the list of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders involving a dysregulation of brain Zn2+-levels is long and steadily growing, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease as well as schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, depression, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Down's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Wilson’s disease and Pick’s disease. Furthermore, alterations in Zn2+-levels are seen in transient forebrain ischemia, seizures, traumatic brain injury and alcoholism. Thus, the possibility of altering Zn2+-levels within the brain is emerging as a new target for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases. Although the role of Zn2+ in the brain has been extensively studied over the past decades, methods for controlled regulation and manipulation of Zn2+ concentrations within the brain are still in their infancy. Since the use of dietary Zn2+ supplementation and restriction has major limitations, new methods and alternative approaches are currently under investigation, such as the use of intracranial infusion of Zn2+ chelators or nanoparticle technologies to elevate or decrease intracellular Zn2+ levels. Therefore, this review briefly summarizes the role of Zn2+ in psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases and highlights key findings and impediments of brain Zn2+-level manipulation. Furthermore, some methods and compounds, such as metal ion chelation, redistribution and supplementation that are used to control brain Zn2+-levels in order to treat brain disorders are evaluated.
PMCID: PMC3220161  PMID: 22102982
Alzheimer’s disease; ion chelators; nanoparticles; postsynaptic density; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; zinc; nutrition; dietary zinc; epilepsy
16.  SPATACSIN mutations cause autosomal recessive juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2010;133(2):591-598.
The mutation of the spatacsin gene is the single most common cause of autosomal recessive hereditary spastic paraplegia with thin corpus callosum. Common clinical, pathological and genetic features between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and hereditary spastic paraplegia motivated us to investigate 25 families with autosomal recessive juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and long-term survival for mutations in the spatascin gene. The inclusion criterion was a diagnosis of clinically definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis according to the revised El Escorial criteria. The exclusion criterion was a diagnosis of hereditary spastic paraplegia with thin corpus callosum in line with an established protocol. Additional pathological and genetic evaluations were also performed. Surprisingly, 12 sequence alterations in the spatacsin gene (one of which is novel, IVS30 + 1 G > A) were identified in 10 unrelated pedigrees with autosomal recessive juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and long-term survival. The countries of origin of these families were Italy, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Turkey. The variants seemed to be pathogenic since they co-segregated with the disease in all pedigrees, were absent in controls and were associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis neuropathology in one member of one of these families for whom central nervous system tissue was available. Our study indicates that mutations in the spatascin gene could cause a much wider spectrum of clinical features than previously recognized, including autosomal recessive juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2822627  PMID: 20110243
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; hereditary spastic paraplegia; mutations; spatacsin
17.  Analysis of FUS gene mutation in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis within an Italian cohort 
Neurology  2009;73(15):1180-1185.
Mutations in the FUS gene on chromosome 16 have been recently discovered as a cause of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS). This study determined the frequency and identities of FUS gene mutations in a cohort of Italian patients with FALS.
We screened all 15 coding exons of FUS for mutations in 94 Italian patients with FALS.
We identified 4 distinct missense mutations in 5 patients; 2 were novel. The mutations were not present in 376 healthy Italian controls and thus are likely to be pathogenic.
Our results demonstrate that FUS mutations cause ∼4% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases in the Italian population.
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= genomic DNA;
= lower motor neuron;
= nuclear localization signal;
= upper motor neuron.
PMCID: PMC2764725  PMID: 19741215
18.  No association between DNA repair gene XRCC1 and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neurobiology of Aging  2010;33(5):1015.e25-1015.e26.
Reduced DNA repair capacity may play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) etiology. We examined the association between ALS risk and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene x-ray repair complementing defective repair in Chinese hamster cells 1 (XRCC1) utilizing data from a case-control study and two genome-wide association studies (the Study of Irish Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and the NINDS genome-wide study in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Neurologically Normal Controls). Our results did not show any differences in the frequency of XRCC1 gene polymorphisms between ALS patients and controls free of any neurological disease.
Abnormal capacity to repair DNA damage may play a role in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (Bradley and Krasin, 1982). Neurons, especially motor neurons, are sensitive to DNA damage induced by reactive oxygen species ROS. Defects in the base-excision repair (BER) pathway, which counteracts the effects of ROS-induced DNA damage, may thus play a role in ALS. We examined the association of ALS risk to polymorphisms in a key gene in the BER pathway, x-ray repair complementing defective repair in Chinese hamster cells 1 (XRCC1).
PMCID: PMC3005140  PMID: 20719408
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; DNA repair; XRCC1
19.  Leukocyte-derived microparticles and scanning electron microscopic structures in two fractions of fresh cerebrospinal fluid in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a case report 
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.
Case presentation
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.
PMCID: PMC3492039  PMID: 22943439
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Antibodies; Cerebrospinal fluid; Complementary methods; Electromyography; Flow cytometry; Microparticles; Phosphatidylserine; Scanning electron microscopy
20.  Clinico-pathological features in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with expansions in C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):751-764.
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.
PMCID: PMC3286332  PMID: 22366792
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; dementia; neurodegeneration
21.  Clinical outcomes and serum uric acid levels in elderly patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aged ≥ 70 years 
Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a slowly progressive fetal neurodegenerative disease in which clinical phenotype and nutritional status are considered prognostic factors. Advanced age has also been reported to carry a poor prognosis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The elderly population is expected to increase in Japan, as well as in other countries in the near future. Whether late-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects the average lifespan or survival of patients and the nutritional status was related to survival remains an open question. Methods: We studied the survival of elderly 34 patients with clinically definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aged ≥ 70 years and investigated serum triglycerides, cholesterol, LDL/HDL ratio, and glucose. Serum uric acid was examined. Results: The average age at respiratory disorders or death as a whole was 77.5 ± 4.3 years. Survival did not differ significantly between different clinical phenotypes or between patients with and those without riluzole usage. Survival differed significantly between patients with and those without other complications. No biochemical parameter is correlated with outcome in this series, including elevated triglyceride or cholesterol levels and an increased LDL/HDL ratio. The survival correlated with the serum uric acid level (r = 0.407, p = 0.017). Conclusions: The onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at ≥ 70 years of age might not be the key determinant of survival in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3703126  PMID: 23844338
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; elderly amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; survival; nutritional status; uric acid
22.  Current and emerging treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a relatively rare neurodegenerative disorder of both upper and lower motoneurons. Currently, the management of ALS is essentially symptoms-based, and riluzole, an antiglutamatergic agent, is the only drug for the treatment of ALS approved by the food and drug administration.
We reviewed current literature concerning emerging treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
A Medline literature search was performed to identify all studies on ALS treatment published from January 1st, 1986 through August 31st, 2009. We selected papers concerning only disease-modifying therapy.
Forty-eight compounds were identified and reviewed in this study.
Riluzole is the only compound that demonstrated a beneficial effect on ALS patients, but with only modest increase in survival. Although several drugs showed effective results in the animal models for ALS, none of them significantly prolonged survival or improved quality of life of ALS patients. Several factors have been implicated in explaining the predominantly negative results of numerous randomized clinical trials in ALS, including methodological problems in the use of animal-drug screening, the lack of assessment of pharmacokinetic profile of the drugs, and methodological pitfalls of clinical trials in ALS patients.
PMCID: PMC2785861  PMID: 19966906
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; therapy; drug; survival
Muscle & nerve  2009;39(1):16-24.
Skeletal muscle is electrically anisotropic, with a tendency for applied electrical current to flow more readily along muscle fibers than across them. In this study, we assessed a method for non-invasive measurement of anisotropy to determine its potential to serve as a new technique for distinguishing neurogenic from myopathic disease. Measurements were made on the biceps brachii and tibialis anterior muscles in 15 normal subjects and 12 patients with neuromuscular disease (6 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 6 with various myopathies) using 50 kHz applied current. Consistent multi-angle anisotropic patterns were found for reactance and phase in both muscles in normal subjects. Normalized anisotropy differences for each subject were defined, and group average values identified. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients demonstrated increased and distorted anisotropy patterns, whereas myopathic patients demonstrated normal or reduced anisotropy. These results suggest that non-invasive measurement of muscle anisotropy has potential for diagnosis of neuromuscular diseases.
PMCID: PMC2719295  PMID: 19058193
angle; anisotropy; current flow; electrical impedance; electrode; muscle
24.  The Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor γ (PPARγ) Controls Natural Protective Mechanisms against Lipid Peroxidation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(43):35899-35911.
Background: The mechanism of motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is poorly understood.
Results: The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) can be activated by lipid peroxidation metabolites in ALS motor neurons, and this can prompt the expression of antioxidant enzymes.
Conclusion: PPARγ can exert a direct protective effect in ALS motor neurons.
Significance: PPARγ transcriptional co-activators may represent therapeutic targets in ALS.
Recent evidence highlights the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) as critical neuroprotective factors in several neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To gain new mechanistic insights into the role of these receptors in the context of ALS, here we investigated how PPAR transcriptional activity varies in hSOD1G93A ALS transgenic mice. We demonstrate that PPARγ-driven transcription selectively increases in the spinal cord of symptomatic hSOD1G93A mice. This phenomenon correlates with the up-regulation of target genes, such as lipoprotein lipase and glutathione S-transferase α-2, which are implicated in scavenging lipid peroxidation by-products. Such events are associated with enhanced PPARγ immunoreactivity within motor neuronal nuclei. This observation, and the fact that PPARγ displays increased responsiveness in cultured hSOD1G93A motor neurons, points to a role for this receptor in neutralizing deleterious lipoperoxidation derivatives within the motor cells. Consistently, in both motor neuron-like cultures and animal models, we report that PPARγ is activated by lipid peroxidation end products, such as 4-hydroxynonenal, whose levels are elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid and spinal cord from ALS patients. We propose that the accumulation of critical concentrations of lipid peroxidation adducts during ALS progression leads to the activation of PPARγ in motor neurons. This in turn triggers self-protective mechanisms that involve the up-regulation of lipid detoxification enzymes, such as lipoprotein lipase and glutathione S-transferase α-2. Our findings indicate that anticipating natural protective reactions by pharmacologically modulating PPARγ transcriptional activity may attenuate neurodegeneration by limiting the damage induced by lipid peroxidation derivatives.
PMCID: PMC3476258  PMID: 22910911
Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease); Lipid Peroxidation; Neurodegeneration; Oxidative Stress; Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor (PPAR)
25.  Stem Cell Transplantation for Motor Neuron Disease: Current Approaches and Future Perspectives 
Neurotherapeutics  2011;8(4):591-606.
Motor neuron degeneration leading to muscle atrophy and death is a pathological hallmark of disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy. No effective treatment is available for these devastating diseases. At present, cell-based therapies targeting motor neuron replacement, support, or as a vehicle for the delivery of neuroprotective molecules are being investigated. Although many challenges and questions remain, the beneficial effects observed following transplantation therapy in animal models of motor neuron disease has sparked hope and a number of clinical trials. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of cell-based therapeutics for motor neuron disorders, with a particular emphasis on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0068-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3210365  PMID: 21904789
Motor neuron; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Spinal muscular atrophy; Growth factors; Neural stem cell; Transplantation

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