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1.  ALS Multicenter Cohort Study of Oxidative Stress (ALS COSMOS): The study methodology, recruitment, and baseline demographic and disease characteristics 
In a multicenter study of newly diagnosed ALS patients without a reported family history of ALS, we are prospectively investigating whether markers of oxidative stress (OS) are associated with disease progression.
An extensive structured telephone interview ascertained environmental, lifestyle, dietary and psychological risk factors associated with OS. Detailed assessments were performed at baseline and at 3 to 6 month intervals during the ensuing 30 months. Our biorepository includes DNA, plasma, urine, and skin.
355 patients were recruited. Subjects were enrolled over a 36 month-period at 16 sites. To meet the target number of subjects, the recruitment period was prolonged and additional sites were included. Demographic and disease characteristics were similar between 477 eligible/non-enrolled and enrolled patients, with the only difference being type of health insurance among enrolled patients. Sites were divided into 3 groups by the number of enrolled subjects. Comparing these 3 groups, the Columbia site had fewer “definite ALS” diagnoses.
This is the first prospective, interdisciplinary, in-depth, multicenter epidemiological investigation of OS related to ALS progression and was accomplished by an aggressive recruitment process. The baseline demographic and disease features of the study sample are now fully characterized.
PMCID: PMC4310702  PMID: 24564738
ALS; Oxidative Stress; Disease Progression; Survival; Epidemiology
2.  Is IVIg therapy warranted in progressive lower motor neuron syndromes without conduction block? 
Neurology  2013;81(24):2116-2120.
To evaluate the likelihood of response to IV immunoglobulin (IVIg) by studying consecutive patients presenting with progressive, asymmetric, pure lower motor neuron (LMN) limb weakness, and to determine the clinical phenotype of those who respond.
Thirty-one consecutive patients with progressive, focal-onset LMN limb weakness, without evidence of clinical upper motor neuron signs; sensory, respiratory, or bulbar involvement; or evidence of motor nerve conduction block on electrodiagnostic studies, were prospectively included in this study. Each patient underwent treatment with IVIg (2 g/kg) for a minimum of 3 months. Electrodiagnostic studies, a neuromuscular symptom score, and expanded Medical Research Council sum score were documented before and after IVIg treatment. The final diagnosis was determined after prolonged clinical follow-up.
Only 3 of 31 patients (10%) responded to IVIg. All responders demonstrated distal upper limb–onset weakness, EMG abnormalities confined to the clinically weak muscles, and a normal creatine kinase. This set of features was also identified in 31% of nonresponders presenting with distal upper limb weakness. Sex, age at onset, number of involved limb regions, and the duration of symptoms before treatment were not significantly different between groups.
The findings of the present study do not support uniform use of IVIg in patients presenting with progressive asymmetric LMN limb weakness. It is suggested that IVIg treatment be limited to patients who demonstrate clinical and laboratory features suggestive of multifocal motor neuropathy.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class IV evidence that IVIg will not improve muscle function in 90% of patients with progressive, asymmetric, pure LMN weakness.
PMCID: PMC3863347  PMID: 24212395
3.  Length of normal alleles of C9ORF72 GGGGCC repeat do not influence disease phenotype 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;33(12):2950.e5-2950.e7.
Expansions of the non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene were recently identified as the long sought-after cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on chromosome 9p. In this study we aimed to determine whether the length of the normal - unexpanded - allele of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 plays a role in the presentation of disease or affects age at onset in C9ORF72 mutation carriers. We also studied whether the GGGGCC repeat length confers risk or affects age at onset in FTD and ALS patients without C9ORF72 repeat expansions. C9ORF72 genotyping was performed in 580 FTD, 995 ALS and 160 FTD-ALS patients and 1444 controls, leading to the identification of 211 patients with pathogenic C9ORF72 repeat expansions and an accurate quantification of the length of the normal alleles in all patients and controls. No meaningful association between the repeat length of the normal alleles of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 and disease phenotype or age at onset was observed in C9ORF72 mutation carriers or non-mutation carriers.
PMCID: PMC3617405  PMID: 22840558
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal Dementia; C9ORF72; Repeat-expansion disease; Association study
4.  Deciphering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: What phenotype, neuropathology and genetics are telling us about pathogenesis 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized phenotypically by progressive weakness and neuropathologically by loss of motor neurons. Phenotypically, there is marked heterogeneity. Typical ALS has mixed upper motor neuron (UMN) and lower motor neuron (LMN) involvement. Primary lateral sclerosis has predominant UMN involvement. Progressive muscular atrophy has predominant LMN involvement. Bulbar and limb ALS have predominant regional involvement. Frontotemporal dementia has significant cognitive and behavioral involvement. These phenotypes can be so distinctive that they would seem to have differing biology. However, they cannot be distinguished, at least neuropathologically or genetically. In sporadic ALS (SALS), they are mostly characterized by ubiquitinated cytoplasmic inclusions of TDP-43. In familial ALS (FALS), where phenotypes are indistinguishable from SALS and similarly heterogeneous, each mutated gene has its own genetic and molecular signature. Overall, since the same phenotypes can have multiple causes including different gene mutations, there must be multiple molecular mechanisms causing ALS – and ALS is a syndrome. Since, however, multiple phenotypes can be caused by one single gene mutation, a single molecular mechanism can cause heterogeneity. What the mechanisms are remain unknown, but active propagation of the pathology neuroanatomically seems to be a principal component. Leading candidate mechanisms include RNA processing, cell-cell interactions between neurons and non-neuronal neighbors, focal seeding from a misfolded protein that has prion-like propagation, and fatal errors introduced during neurodevelopment of the motor system. If fundamental mechanisms could be identified and understood, ALS therapy could rationally target progression and stop the disease – a goal that seems increasingly achievable.
PMCID: PMC3779649  PMID: 23678876
ALS; PLS; PMA; motor neuron disease; FTD
5.  Frontotemporal dementia in a Brazilian Caucasian kindred with the C9orf72 mutation 
Archives of neurology  2012;69(9):1149-1153.
Describe the clinical features of a Brazilian C9orf72 frontotemporal dementia – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) kindred, and compare them to other reported C9orf72 families and FTD-ALS causing mutations.
Report of a kindred.
Dementia center at an University hospital.
One kindred encompassing 3 generations.
The presence of a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) expansion in C9orf72 was confirmed by repeat-primed PCR and Southern blot. The observed phenotypes were behavioral variant FTD and ALS with dementia, with significant variability in age of onset and duration of disease. Parkinsonian features with focal dystonia, visual hallucinations and more posterior atrophy on neuroimaging than is typical for FTD were seen.
bvFTD due to C9orf72 expansions displays some phenotypic heterogeneity, and may be associated with hallucinations, parkinsonism, focal dystonia, and posterior brain atrophy. Personality changes may precede by many years the diagnosis of dementia and may be a distinguishing feature of this mutation.
PMCID: PMC3625641  PMID: 22964910
7.  TREM2 in neurodegeneration: evidence for association of the p.R47H variant with frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease 
A rare variant in the Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) gene has been reported to be a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease by two independent groups (Odds ratio between 2.9-4.5). Given the key role of TREM2 in the effective phagocytosis of apoptotic neuronal cells by microglia, we hypothesized that dysfunction of TREM2 may play a more generalized role in neurodegeneration. With this in mind we set out to assess the genetic association of the Alzheimer’s disease-related risk variant in TREM2 (rs75932628, p.R47H) with other related neurodegenerative disorders.
The study included 609 patients with frontotemporal dementia, 765 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, 1493 with Parkinson’s disease, 772 with progressive supranuclear palsy, 448 with ischemic stroke and 1957 controls subjects free of neurodegenerative disease. A significant association was observed for the TREM2 p.R47H substitution in susceptibility to frontotemporal dementia (OR = 5.06; p-value = 0.001) and Parkinson’s disease (OR = 2.67; p-value = 0.026), while no evidence of association with risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, progressive supranuclear palsy or ischemic stroke was observed.
Our results suggest that the TREM2 p.R47H substitution is a risk factor for frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease in addition to Alzheimer’s disease. These findings suggest a more general role for TREM2 dysfunction in neurodegeneration, which could be related to its role in the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3691612  PMID: 23800361
TREM2; Frontotemporal dementia; Parkinson disease; Genetic association
8.  Pathogenicity of exonic indels in fused in sarcoma in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neurobiology of aging  2010;33(2):424.e23-424.e24.
Insertion and deletion variants (indels) within poly glycine tracts of fused in sarcoma (FUS) were initially reported as causative of disease in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Subsequent studies identified similar indels in controls and suggested that these indels may confer susceptibility to ALS. We aimed to elucidate the role of previously published and novel exonic indels in FUS in an extensive cohort of 630 ALS patients and 1063 controls. We detected indels in FUS exons 5, 6, 12 and 14 with similar frequencies in patients (0.95%) and controls (0.75%). Exonic indels in poly glycine tracts were also observed with similar frequencies. The largest indel (p.Gly138_Tyr143del) was observed in one control. In one patient, a 3 base pair deletion in exon 14 (p.Gly475del) was identified, however in-vitro studies did not reveal abnormal localization of p.Gly475del mutant FUS. These findings suggest that not all exonic indels in FUS cause disease.
PMCID: PMC3130814  PMID: 21074900
9.  Behaviour, physiology and experience of pathological laughing and crying in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2011;134(12):3455-3466.
Pathological laughing and crying is a disorder of emotional expression seen in a number of neurological diseases. The aetiology is poorly understood, but clinical descriptions suggest a disorder of emotion regulation. The goals of this study were: (i) to characterize the subjective, behavioural and physiological emotional reactions that occur during episodes of pathological laughing and crying; (ii) to compare responses during these episodes to those that occur when emotions are elicited under standard conditions (watching sad and amusing emotional films, being startled); and (iii) to examine the ability of patients with this disorder to regulate their emotions under standardized conditions. Twenty-one patients with pathological laughing and crying due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 14 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but no pathological laughing and crying were studied. Emotional measures included self-reported emotional experience, video recordings of facial reactivity and peripheral physiological responses (skin conductance, heart rate and somatic activity). Nineteen of the 21 patients with histories of pathological laughing and crying had at least one episode in the laboratory that they agreed constituted pathological laughing or crying (a total of 56 episodes were documented). Compared with viewing sad and amusing films, the episodes were associated with greater facial and physiological activation. Contrary to many clinical descriptions, episodes were often induced by contextually appropriate stimuli and associated with strong experiences of emotion that were consistent with the display. When instructed to regulate their facial responses to emotion-eliciting films, patients with pathological laughing and crying showed impairments compared with patients who did not have a history of this disorder. These findings support the idea that pathological laughing and crying represents activation of all channels of emotional responding (i.e. behavioural, physiological and subjective). Furthermore, they support previously advanced theories that, rather than being associated with general emotional hyperreactivity, this disorder may be due to dysfunction in frontal neural systems that support voluntary regulation of emotion.
PMCID: PMC3235565  PMID: 22155983
behavioural neurology; pseudobulbar affect; affective neuroscience; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
10.  Ataxin-2 repeat-length variation and neurodegeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(16):3207-3212.
Expanded glutamine repeats of the ataxin-2 (ATXN2) protein cause spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. More recent studies have suggested that expanded ATXN2 repeats are a genetic risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) via an RNA-dependent interaction with TDP-43. Given the phenotypic diversity observed in SCA2 patients, we set out to determine the polymorphic nature of the ATXN2 repeat length across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we genotyped the ATXN2 repeat in 3919 neurodegenerative disease patients and 4877 healthy controls and performed logistic regression analysis to determine the association of repeat length with the risk of disease. We confirmed the presence of a significantly higher number of expanded ATXN2 repeat carriers in ALS patients compared with healthy controls (OR = 5.57; P= 0.001; repeat length >30 units). Furthermore, we observed significant association of expanded ATXN2 repeats with the development of progressive supranuclear palsy (OR = 5.83; P= 0.004; repeat length >30 units). Although expanded repeat carriers were also identified in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, these were not significantly more frequent than in controls. Of note, our study identified a number of healthy control individuals who harbor expanded repeat alleles (31–33 units), which suggests caution should be taken when attributing specific disease phenotypes to these repeat lengths. In conclusion, our findings confirm the role of ATXN2 as an important risk factor for ALS and support the hypothesis that expanded ATXN2 repeats may predispose to other neurodegenerative diseases, including progressive supranuclear palsy.
PMCID: PMC3140823  PMID: 21610160
11.  Extensive FUS-immunoreactive Pathology in Juvenile Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis with Basophilic Inclusions 
Juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with basophilic inclusions is a well-recognized entity. However, the molecular underpinnings of this devastating disease are poorly understood. Here, we present genetic and neuropathological characterizations in two young women with fatal rapidly progressive ALS with basophilic inclusions. In one case, a germline mutation (P525L) was detected in the FUS/TLS (fused in sarcoma/translocated in liposarcoma) gene, whereas no mutation was identified in the other case. Postmortem examination in both cases revealed severe loss of spinal motor neurons with remaining neurons showing basophilic inclusions that contain abnormal aggregates of FUS proteins and disorganized intracellular organelles, including mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum. In both patients, the FUS-positive inclusions were also detected in neurons in layers IV–V of cerebral cortex and several brainstem nuclei. In contrast, spinal motor neurons in patients with late-onset sporadic ALS showed no evidence of abnormal accumulation of FUS protein. These results underscore the importance of FUS mutations and pathology in rapidly progressive juvenile ALS. Furthermore, our study represents the first detailed characterizations of neuropathological findings in rapidly progressive juvenile ALS patients with a mutation in the FUS/TLS gene.
PMCID: PMC2951498  PMID: 20579074
ALS; FUS; mutation; immunohistochemistry; electron microscopy
12.  Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Caring for Patients with Frontotemporal dementia and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive neurological condition caused by degeneration of the frontal and/or anterior temporal lobes resulting in personality, behavioral, and cognitive changes. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is caused by degeneration of lower motor and pyramidal neurons, leading to loss of voluntary muscle movement. The common molecular pathological and anatomical overlap between FTD and ALS, suggest that the two disorders are strongly linked. In some patients FTD precedes ALS, in others ALS occurs first, while in still others the two disorders begin simultaneously. The association between ALS and FTD create unique challenges for family caregivers. This paper provides a guide for healthcare providers caring for patients with FTD-ALS exhibiting behavioral, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. Strategies are suggested to help minimize the impact of negative symptoms.
PMCID: PMC2908374  PMID: 20222805
frontotemporal dementia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; behavior management; behavioral symptoms
13.  Phase II trial of CoQ10 for ALS finds insufficient evidence to justify Phase III 
Annals of neurology  2009;66(2):235-244.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating, and currently incurable, neuromuscular disease in which oxidative stress and mitochondrial impairment are contributing to neuronal loss. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant and mitochondrial cofactor, has shown promise in ALS transgenic mice, and in clinical trials for neurodegenerative diseases other than ALS. Our aims were to choose between two high doses of CoQ10 for ALS, and to determine if it merits testing in a Phase III clinical trial.
We designed and implemented a multi-center trial with an adaptive, two-stage, bias-adjusted, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, Phase II design (n=185). The primary outcome in both stages was decline in the ALS Functional Rating Scale-revised (ALSFRSr) score over 9 months. Stage 1 (dose selection, 35 participants per group) compared CoQ10 doses of 1,800 and 2,700 mg/day. Stage 2 (futility test, 75 patients per group) compared the dose selected in Stage 1 against placebo.
Stage 1 selected the 2,700 mg dose. In Stage 2, the pre-specified primary null hypothesis that this dose is superior to placebo was not rejected. It was rejected, however, in an accompanying pre-specified sensitivity test, and further supplementary analyses. Pre-specified secondary analyses showed no significant differences between CoQ10 at 2,700 mg/day and placebo. There were no safety concerns.
CoQ10 at 2,700 mg daily for 9 months shows insufficient promise to warrant Phase III testing. Given this outcome, the adaptive Phase II design incorporating a dose selection and a futility test avoided the need for a much larger conventional Phase III trial.
PMCID: PMC2854625  PMID: 19743457
14.  Quantifying Disease Progression in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Annals of Neurology  2014;76(5):643-657.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) exhibits characteristic variability of onset and rate of disease progression, with inherent clinical heterogeneity making disease quantitation difficult. Recent advances in understanding pathogenic mechanisms linked to the development of ALS impose an increasing need to develop strategies to predict and more objectively measure disease progression. This review explores phenotypic and genetic determinants of disease progression in ALS, and examines established and evolving biomarkers that may contribute to robust measurement in longitudinal clinical studies. With targeted neuroprotective strategies on the horizon, developing efficiencies in clinical trial design may facilitate timely entry of novel treatments into the clinic.
PMCID: PMC4305209  PMID: 25223628

Results 1-14 (14)