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1.  In vivo signatures of nonfluent/agrammatic primary progressive aphasia caused by FTLD pathology 
Neurology  2014;82(3):239-247.
Objective:
To identify early cognitive and neuroimaging features of sporadic nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA) caused by frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) subtypes.
Methods:
We prospectively collected clinical, neuroimaging, and neuropathologic data in 11 patients with sporadic nfvPPA with FTLD-tau (nfvPPA-tau, n = 9) or FTLD–transactive response DNA binding protein pathology of 43 kD type A (nfvPPA-TDP, n = 2). We analyzed patterns of cognitive and gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) atrophy at presentation in the whole group and in each pathologic subtype separately. We also considered longitudinal clinical data.
Results:
At first evaluation, regardless of pathologic FTLD subtype, apraxia of speech (AOS) was the most common cognitive feature and atrophy involved the left posterior frontal lobe. Each pathologic subtype showed few distinctive features. At presentation, patients with nfvPPA-tau presented with mild to moderate AOS, mixed dysarthria with prominent hypokinetic features, clear agrammatism, and atrophy in the GM of the left posterior frontal regions and in left frontal WM. While speech and language deficits were prominent early, within 3 years of symptom onset, all patients with nfvPPA-tau developed significant extrapyramidal motor signs. At presentation, patients with nfvPPA-TDP had severe AOS, dysarthria with spastic features, mild agrammatism, and atrophy in left posterior frontal GM only. Selective mutism occurred early, when general neurologic examination only showed mild decrease in finger dexterity in the right hand.
Conclusions:
Clinical features in sporadic nfvPPA caused by FTLD subtypes relate to neurodegeneration of GM and WM in frontal motor speech and language networks. We propose that early WM atrophy in nfvPPA is suggestive of FTLD-tau pathology while early selective GM loss might be indicative of FTLD-TDP.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000031
PMCID: PMC3902758  PMID: 24353332
2.  Metallothioneins as Dynamic Markers for Brain Disease in Lysosomal Disorders 
Annals of neurology  2014;75(1):127-137.
Objective
To facilitate development of novel disease-modifying therapies for lysosomal storage disorder (LSDs) characterized by nervous system involvement such as metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), molecular markers for monitoring disease progression and therapeutic response are needed. To this end, we sought to identify blood transcripts associated with the progression of MLD.
Methods
Genome-wide expression analysis was performed in primary T lymphocytes of 24 patients with MLD compared to 24 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Genes associated with MLD were identified, confirmed on a quantitative polymerase chain reaction platform, and replicated in an independent patient cohort. mRNA and protein expression of the prioritized gene family of metallothioneins was evaluated in postmortem patient brains and in mouse models representing 6 other LSDs. Metallothionein expression during disease progression and in response to specific treatment was evaluated in 1 of the tested LSD mouse models. Finally, a set of in vitro studies was planned to dissect the biological functions exerted by this class of molecules.
Results
Metallothionein genes were significantly overexpressed in T lymphocytes and brain of patients with MLD and generally marked nervous tissue damage in the LSDs here evaluated. Overexpression of metallothioneins correlated with measures of disease progression in mice and patients, whereas their levels decreased in mice upon therapeutic treatment. In vitro studies indicated that metallothionein expression is regulated in response to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are biochemical hallmarks of lysosomal storage diseases.
Interpretation
Metallothioneins are potential markers of neurologic disease processes and treatment response in LSDs.
doi:10.1002/ana.24053
PMCID: PMC4237725  PMID: 24242821
3.  Fingolimod versus intramuscular interferon in patient subgroups from TRANSFORMS 
Journal of neurology  2013;260(8):2023-2032.
In the 12-month phase 3 TRANSFORMS study, fingolimod showed greater efficacy than intramuscular interferon beta (IFNβ)-1a in patients with relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). This study analyzed fingolimod efficacy compared with IFNβ-1a in patient subgroups from TRANSFORMS. Patients were randomized to receive fingolimod or weekly IM IFNβ-1a for 12 months. Analyses of efficacy included annualized relapse rate (ARR), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures [gadolinium (Gd)-enhancing T1 lesions, new/newly enlarged (active) T2 lesions, brain volume change]. Subgroups were defined based on demographics, disease characteristics (baseline EDSS score, relapse rate, and MRI parameters), and response to previous therapy. Fingolimod 0.5 mg reduced ARR over 12 months by 32–59 % relative to IFNβ-1a in all subgroups defined by demographic factors or baseline disease characteristics. Fingolimod also reduced the number of new Gd-enhancing lesions, active T2 lesions, and the rate of brain volume loss, versus IFNβ-1a in most (95 %) subgroups. In patients with high disease activity despite IFNβ treatment in the year before study, fingolimod 0.5 mg reduced ARR by 61 % relative to IFNβ-1a. Reductions in lesion counts and brain volume loss also favored fingolimod in these patients. In conclusion, consistently better efficacy was observed for fingolimod compared with IFNβ-1a across different subgroups of patients with RRMS.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-6932-0
PMCID: PMC3737385  PMID: 23632946
Multiple sclerosis; Randomized clinical trial; Fingolimod; Interferon-beta; MRI; Subgroup analysis
4.  Defining the clinical course of multiple sclerosis 
Neurology  2014;83(3):278-286.
Accurate clinical course descriptions (phenotypes) of multiple sclerosis (MS) are important for communication, prognostication, design and recruitment of clinical trials, and treatment decision-making. Standardized descriptions published in 1996 based on a survey of international MS experts provided purely clinical phenotypes based on data and consensus at that time, but imaging and biological correlates were lacking. Increased understanding of MS and its pathology, coupled with general concern that the original descriptors may not adequately reflect more recently identified clinical aspects of the disease, prompted a re-examination of MS disease phenotypes by the International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials of MS. While imaging and biological markers that might provide objective criteria for separating clinical phenotypes are lacking, we propose refined descriptors that include consideration of disease activity (based on clinical relapse rate and imaging findings) and disease progression. Strategies for future research to better define phenotypes are also outlined.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000560
PMCID: PMC4117366  PMID: 24871874
5.  Teriflunomide reduces relapses with sequelae and relapses leading to hospitalizations: results from the TOWER study 
Journal of Neurology  2014;261(9):1781-1788.
Teriflunomide is a once-daily oral immunomodulator approved for the treatment of relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis. This post hoc analysis of the Phase III TOWER study evaluated the effects of teriflunomide treatment on five severe relapse outcomes: relapses with sequelae defined by an increase in Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS)/functional system (FS) score (sequelae-EDSS/FS) 30 days post relapse; relapses with sequelae defined by the investigator (sequelae-investigator); relapses leading to hospitalization; relapses treated with intravenous corticosteroids; and intense relapses using the definition of Panitch et al. from the EVIDENCE study based on specified increases in EDSS for severe relapses. Adjusted annualized rates for the five severe relapse outcomes were derived using a Poisson model with robust error variance, with treatment, baseline EDSS strata and region as covariates. Compared with placebo, teriflunomide significantly reduced annualized rates of relapses with sequelae-EDSS/FS [14 mg, 36.6 % (p = 0.0021); 7 mg, 31.3 % (p = 0.0104)] and sequelae-investigator [14 mg only, 53.5 % (p = 0.0004)], relapses leading to hospitalization [14 mg only, 33.6 % (p = 0.0155)], relapses requiring intravenous corticosteroids [14 mg, 35.7 % (p = 0.0002); 7 mg, 21.5 % (p = 0.0337)], and intense relapses [14 mg only, 52.5 % (p = 0.0015)]. Patients treated with teriflunomide 14 mg spent significantly fewer nights in hospital for relapse (p = 0.009) and had lower annualized rates of all hospitalizations (p = 0.030). Taken together, the positive effects of teriflunomide on severe relapses indicate that teriflunomide may reduce relapse-related healthcare costs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00415-014-7395-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00415-014-7395-7
PMCID: PMC4155167  PMID: 24972678
Clinical trial; Economics; Multiple sclerosis; Outcome assessment (healthcare); Teriflunomide
6.  Peripheral nerve morphogenesis induced by scaffold micropatterning 
Biomaterials  2014;35(13):4035-4045.
Several bioengineering approaches have been proposed for peripheral nervous system repair, with limited results and still open questions about the underlying molecular mechanisms. We assessed the biological processes that occur after the implantation of collagen scaffold with a peculiar porous microstructure of the wall in a rat sciatic nerve transection model compared to commercial collagen conduits and nerve crush injury using functional, histological and genome wide analyses. We demonstrated that within 60 days, our conduit had been completely substituted by a normal nerve. Gene expression analysis documented a precise sequential regulation of known genes involved in angiogenesis, Schwann cells/axons interactions and myelination, together with a selective modulation of key biological pathways for nerve morphogenesis induced by porous matrices. These data suggest that the scaffold’s microstructure profoundly influences cell behaviors and creates an instructive micro-environment to enhance nerve morphogenesis that can be exploited to improve recovery and understand the molecular differences between repair and regeneration.
doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2014.01.069
PMCID: PMC4061729  PMID: 24559639
Biomaterials; Peripheral nervous system; Nerve regeneration; Medical device
7.  Brain reserve and cognitive reserve in multiple sclerosis 
Neurology  2013;80(24):2186-2193.
Objective:
We first tested the brain reserve (BR) hypothesis in multiple sclerosis (MS) by examining whether larger maximal lifetime brain volume (MLBV; determined by genetics) protects against disease-related cognitive impairment, and then investigated whether cognitive reserve (CR) gained through life experience (intellectually enriching leisure activities) protects against cognitive decline independently of MLBV (BR).
Methods:
Sixty-two patients with MS (41 relapsing-remitting MS, 21 secondary progressive MS) received MRIs to estimate BR (MLBV, estimated with intracranial volume [ICV]) and disease burden (T2 lesion load; atrophy of gray matter, white matter, thalamus, and hippocampus). Early-life cognitive leisure was measured as a source of CR. We assessed cognitive status with tasks of cognitive efficiency and memory. Hierarchical regressions were used to investigate whether higher BR (ICV) protects against cognitive impairment, and whether higher CR (leisure) independently protects against cognitive impairment over and above BR.
Results:
Cognitive status was positively associated with ICV (R2 = 0.066, p = 0.017). An ICV × disease burden interaction (R2 = 0.050, p = 0.030) revealed that larger ICV attenuated the impact of disease burden on cognition. Controlling for BR, higher education (R2 = 0.047, p = 0.030) and leisure (R2 = 0.090, p = 0.001) predicted better cognition. A leisure × disease burden interaction (R2 = 0.037, p = 0.030) showed that leisure independently attenuated the impact of disease burden on cognition. Follow-up analyses revealed that BR protected against cognitive inefficiency, not memory deficits, whereas CR was more protective against memory deficits than cognitive inefficiency.
Conclusion:
We provide evidence of BR in MS, and show that CR independently protects against disease-related cognitive decline over and above BR. Lifestyle choices protect against cognitive impairment independently of genetic factors outside of one's control.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318296e98b
PMCID: PMC3721094  PMID: 23667062
8.  Paternal therapy with disease modifying drugs in multiple sclerosis and pregnancy outcomes: a prospective observational multicentric study 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:114.
Background
Most of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients undergo disease modifying drug (DMD) therapy at childbearing age. The objective of this prospective, collaborative study, was to assess outcomes of pregnancies fathered by MS patients undergoing DMD.
Methods
Structured interviews on pregnancies fathered by MS patients gathered in the Italian Pregnancy Dataset were collected; pregnancies were divided according to father exposure or unexposure to DMD at time of procreation. Treatment were compared with multivariable logistic and linear models.
Results
Seventy-eight pregnancies fathered by MS patients were tracked. Forty-five patients were taking DMD at time of conception (39 beta-interferons, 6 glatiramer acetate), while 33 pregnancies were unexposed to DMD. Seventy-five pregnancies ended in live-births, 44 in the exposed and 31 in the unexposed group. No significant differences between the two groups were found in the risk of spontaneous abortion or malformations (p > 0.454), mean gestational age (p = 0.513), frequency of cesarean delivery (p = 0.644), birth weight (p = 0.821) and birth length (p = 0.649). In comparison with data of the Italian general population, the proportion of spontaneous abortion and caesarean delivery in exposed pregnancies fell within the estimates, while the proportion of pre-term delivery in the exposed group was higher than expected.
Conclusions
Our data indicate no association between paternal DMD exposure at time of conception and risk of spontaneous abortion, adverse fetal outcomes and congenital malformations. Further studies clarifying the role of DMD fathers intake prior and during pregnancy are desirable, to supply guidelines for clinical practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-114
PMCID: PMC4059028  PMID: 24884599
Multiple sclerosis; Paternity; Pregnancy; Interferon beta; Glatiramer acetate
9.  Analysis of immune-related loci identifies 48 new susceptibility variants for multiple sclerosis 
Beecham, Ashley H | Patsopoulos, Nikolaos A | Xifara, Dionysia K | Davis, Mary F | Kemppinen, Anu | Cotsapas, Chris | Shahi, Tejas S | Spencer, Chris | Booth, David | Goris, An | Oturai, Annette | Saarela, Janna | Fontaine, Bertrand | Hemmer, Bernhard | Martin, Claes | Zipp, Frauke | D’alfonso, Sandra | Martinelli-Boneschi, Filippo | Taylor, Bruce | Harbo, Hanne F | Kockum, Ingrid | Hillert, Jan | Olsson, Tomas | Ban, Maria | Oksenberg, Jorge R | Hintzen, Rogier | Barcellos, Lisa F | Agliardi, Cristina | Alfredsson, Lars | Alizadeh, Mehdi | Anderson, Carl | Andrews, Robert | Søndergaard, Helle Bach | Baker, Amie | Band, Gavin | Baranzini, Sergio E | Barizzone, Nadia | Barrett, Jeffrey | Bellenguez, Céline | Bergamaschi, Laura | Bernardinelli, Luisa | Berthele, Achim | Biberacher, Viola | Binder, Thomas M C | Blackburn, Hannah | Bomfim, Izaura L | Brambilla, Paola | Broadley, Simon | Brochet, Bruno | Brundin, Lou | Buck, Dorothea | Butzkueven, Helmut | Caillier, Stacy J | Camu, William | Carpentier, Wassila | Cavalla, Paola | Celius, Elisabeth G | Coman, Irène | Comi, Giancarlo | Corrado, Lucia | Cosemans, Leentje | Cournu-Rebeix, Isabelle | Cree, Bruce A C | Cusi, Daniele | Damotte, Vincent | Defer, Gilles | Delgado, Silvia R | Deloukas, Panos | di Sapio, Alessia | Dilthey, Alexander T | Donnelly, Peter | Dubois, Bénédicte | Duddy, Martin | Edkins, Sarah | Elovaara, Irina | Esposito, Federica | Evangelou, Nikos | Fiddes, Barnaby | Field, Judith | Franke, Andre | Freeman, Colin | Frohlich, Irene Y | Galimberti, Daniela | Gieger, Christian | Gourraud, Pierre-Antoine | Graetz, Christiane | Graham, Andrew | Grummel, Verena | Guaschino, Clara | Hadjixenofontos, Athena | Hakonarson, Hakon | Halfpenny, Christopher | Hall, Gillian | Hall, Per | Hamsten, Anders | Harley, James | Harrower, Timothy | Hawkins, Clive | Hellenthal, Garrett | Hillier, Charles | Hobart, Jeremy | Hoshi, Muni | Hunt, Sarah E | Jagodic, Maja | Jelčić, Ilijas | Jochim, Angela | Kendall, Brian | Kermode, Allan | Kilpatrick, Trevor | Koivisto, Keijo | Konidari, Ioanna | Korn, Thomas | Kronsbein, Helena | Langford, Cordelia | Larsson, Malin | Lathrop, Mark | Lebrun-Frenay, Christine | Lechner-Scott, Jeannette | Lee, Michelle H | Leone, Maurizio A | Leppä, Virpi | Liberatore, Giuseppe | Lie, Benedicte A | Lill, Christina M | Lindén, Magdalena | Link, Jenny | Luessi, Felix | Lycke, Jan | Macciardi, Fabio | Männistö, Satu | Manrique, Clara P | Martin, Roland | Martinelli, Vittorio | Mason, Deborah | Mazibrada, Gordon | McCabe, Cristin | Mero, Inger-Lise | Mescheriakova, Julia | Moutsianas, Loukas | Myhr, Kjell-Morten | Nagels, Guy | Nicholas, Richard | Nilsson, Petra | Piehl, Fredrik | Pirinen, Matti | Price, Siân E | Quach, Hong | Reunanen, Mauri | Robberecht, Wim | Robertson, Neil P | Rodegher, Mariaemma | Rog, David | Salvetti, Marco | Schnetz-Boutaud, Nathalie C | Sellebjerg, Finn | Selter, Rebecca C | Schaefer, Catherine | Shaunak, Sandip | Shen, Ling | Shields, Simon | Siffrin, Volker | Slee, Mark | Sorensen, Per Soelberg | Sorosina, Melissa | Sospedra, Mireia | Spurkland, Anne | Strange, Amy | Sundqvist, Emilie | Thijs, Vincent | Thorpe, John | Ticca, Anna | Tienari, Pentti | van Duijn, Cornelia | Visser, Elizabeth M | Vucic, Steve | Westerlind, Helga | Wiley, James S | Wilkins, Alastair | Wilson, James F | Winkelmann, Juliane | Zajicek, John | Zindler, Eva | Haines, Jonathan L | Pericak-Vance, Margaret A | Ivinson, Adrian J | Stewart, Graeme | Hafler, David | Hauser, Stephen L | Compston, Alastair | McVean, Gil | De Jager, Philip | Sawcer, Stephen | McCauley, Jacob L
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2770.
Using the ImmunoChip custom genotyping array, we analysed 14,498 multiple sclerosis subjects and 24,091 healthy controls for 161,311 autosomal variants and identified 135 potentially associated regions (p-value < 1.0 × 10-4). In a replication phase, we combined these data with previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from an independent 14,802 multiple sclerosis subjects and 26,703 healthy controls. In these 80,094 individuals of European ancestry we identified 48 new susceptibility variants (p-value < 5.0 × 10-8); three found after conditioning on previously identified variants. Thus, there are now 110 established multiple sclerosis risk variants in 103 discrete loci outside of the Major Histocompatibility Complex. With high resolution Bayesian fine-mapping, we identified five regions where one variant accounted for more than 50% of the posterior probability of association. This study enhances the catalogue of multiple sclerosis risk variants and illustrates the value of fine-mapping in the resolution of GWAS signals.
doi:10.1038/ng.2770
PMCID: PMC3832895  PMID: 24076602
10.  MxA mRNA Quantification and Disability Progression in Interferon Beta-Treated Multiple Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94794.
Even though anti-interferon beta (IFNβ) antibodies are the main determinants of IFNβ bioactivity loss and Myxovirus-resistance protein A (MxA) is the most established marker of IFNβ biological activity in IFNβ-treated multiple sclerosis patients, their usefulness in the routine clinical practice is still debated. Therefore, 118 multiple sclerosis patients naïve for treatment were enrolled for a 3-year longitudinal observational study mimicking the conditions of a real-world setting. In order to evaluate the kinetics of bioactivity loss in blood samples obtained every 6 months after therapy initiation, MxA and interferon receptor isoform/subunit mRNA were quantified by real-time PCR, anti-IFNβ binding antibodies were detected by radioimmunoprecipitation, and neutralizing antibodies by cytopathic effect inhibition assay. Clinical measures of disease activity and disability progression were also obtained at all time points. We found that, at the individual-patient level, the response to IFNβ therapy was extremely heterogeneous, including patients with stable or transitory, early or late loss of IFNβ bioactivity, and patients with samples lacking MxA mRNA induction in spite of absence of antibodies. No interferon receptor isoform alterations that could explain these findings were found. At the group level, none of these biological features correlated with the measures of clinical disease activity or progression. However, when MxA mRNA was evaluated not at the single time point as a dichotomic marker (induced vs. non-induced), but as the mean of its values measured over the 6-to-24 month period, the increasing average MxA predicted a decreasing risk of short-term disability progression, independently from the presence of relapses. Therefore, a more bioactive treatment, even if unable to suppress relapses, reduces their severity by an amount that is proportional to MxA levels. Together with its feasibility in the routine laboratory setting, these data warrant the quantification of MxA mRNA as a primary tool for a routine monitoring of IFNβ therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094794
PMCID: PMC3986392  PMID: 24733382
11.  Safety of the first dose of fingolimod for multiple sclerosis: results of an open-label clinical trial 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:65.
Background
In patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) fingolimod prevents disease relapses and delays disability progression. First dose administration of fingolimod is associated with a transient, dose-dependent decrease in heart rate (HR) in the 6 hours after drug intake.
The aim of the study is to to assess safety and tolerability of the first dose of fingolimod in a cohort of Italian patients with RRMS without alternative therapeutic options.
Methods
Open-label, single arm, multicentre study. After the first dose of fingolimod, patients were observed for 6 hours and had their vital signs monitored hourly. Extended on-site monitoring was provided when required.
Results
Of the 906 patients enrolled in the study, most (95.2%) did not experience any adverse event (AE) following fingolimod administration. Cardiovascular AEs occurred in 18 patients and included bradycardia (1.3%), first-and second-degree atrioventricular block (0.1% and 0.2%), palpitations (0.1%), sinus arrhythmia (0.1%) and ventricular premature beats (0.1%). All events were self-limiting and did not require any intervention. Extended monitoring was required in 34 patients.
Conclusions
These results, in a population who better resembled real-world clinical practice in terms of concomitant diseases and medications, are consistent with previous clinical trials and confirmed that the first dose administration of fingolimod is generally safe and well tolerated.
Trial registration
EudraCT 2011-000770-60
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-65
PMCID: PMC4005629  PMID: 24690227
Atrioventricular block; Bradycardia; Multiple sclerosis; Fingolimod; Safety; Tolerability
12.  Oxidative Stress Is Differentially Present in Multiple Sclerosis Courses, Early Evident, and Unrelated to Treatment 
Journal of Immunology Research  2014;2014:961863.
Background. Oxidative stress is well documented in multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions, but its correspondence at peripheral level is still controversial. Objective. To evaluate peripheral oxidative stress markers in MS patients. Methods. We studied total blood levels of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), oxidized and reduced forms of glutathione, malondialdehyde, reactive oxygen species (ROS), anti-oxidized-low-density lipoproteins (anti-oxLDL) antibodies, and antioxidant power (PAO) in 87 patients with different MS clinical phenotypes and in 77 controls. Results. CoQ10 was lower whereas anti-oxLDL antibodies titer was higher in MS patients than in controls. The benign variant of MS displayed both higher CoQ10 and higher anti-oxLDL than other MS clinical variants. Female patients had lower CoQ10 and PAO and higher ROS than male patients. Differences were greater in younger patients with shorter disease duration. Surprisingly, there was no difference for these markers between treated and untreated patients. Conclusion. We found lower antioxidant agents and higher anti-oxLDL antibodies in MS, and the highest antibody titers occurred in the benign form. We suggest that natural anti-oxLDL antibodies can be protective against MS, saving blood brain barrier integrity. Our findings also suggest that milder MS is associated with a distinct oxidative stress pattern, which may provide a useful biomarker of disease prognosis.
doi:10.1155/2014/961863
PMCID: PMC3984797  PMID: 24741637
13.  Patient subgroup analyses of the treatment effect of subcutaneous interferon β-1a on development of multiple sclerosis in the randomized controlled REFLEX study 
Journal of Neurology  2014;261(3):490-499.
The REFLEX study (NCT00404352) established that subcutaneous (sc) interferon (IFN) β-1a reduced the risks of McDonald MS (2005 criteria) and clinically definite multiple sclerosis (CDMS) in patients with a first clinical demyelinating event suggestive of MS. The aim of this subgroup analysis was to assess the treatment effect of sc IFN β-1a in patient subgroups defined by baseline disease and demographic characteristics (age, sex, use of steroids at the first event, classification of first event as mono- or multifocal, presence/absence of gadolinium-enhancing lesions, count of <9 or ≥9 T2 lesions), and by diagnosis of MS using the revised McDonald 2010 MS criteria. Patients were randomized to the serum-free formulation of IFN β-1a, 44 μg sc three times weekly or once weekly, or placebo, for 24 months or until diagnosis of CDMS. Treatment effects of sc IFN β-1a on McDonald 2005 MS and CDMS in the predefined subgroups were similar to effects found in the intent-to-treat population. McDonald 2010 MS was retrospectively diagnosed in 37.7 % of patients at baseline. Both regimens of sc IFN β-1a significantly reduced the risk versus placebo of McDonald 2005 MS and CDMS, irrespective of McDonald 2010 status at baseline (risk reductions between 29 and 51 %). The effect of sc IFN β-1a was not substantially influenced by baseline patient demographic and disease characteristics, or baseline presence/absence of McDonald 2010 MS.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7222-6
PMCID: PMC3948518  PMID: 24413638
Interferon beta; First clinical demyelinating event; Clinically isolated syndrome; McDonald MS; Clinically definite MS
14.  Age-Related Changes in Motor Cortical Representation and Interhemispheric Interactions: A Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study 
To better understand the physiological mechanisms responsible for the differential motor cortex functioning in aging, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate interhemispheric interactions and cortical representation of hand muscles in the early phase of physiological aging, correlating these data with participants’ motor abilities. Right-handed healthy subjects were divided into a younger group (n = 15, mean age 25.4 ± 1.9 years old) and an older group (n = 16, mean age 61.1 ± 5.1 years old). Activity of the bilateral abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and abductor digiti minimi (ADM) was recorded. Ipsilateral silent period (ISP) was measured in both APBs. Cortical maps of APB and ADM were measured bilaterally. Mirror movements (MM) were recorded during thumb abductions. Motor abilities were tested using Nine Hole Peg Test, finger tapping, and grip strength. ISP was reduced in the older group on both sides, in terms of duration (p = 0.025), onset (p = 0.029), and area (p = 0.008). Resting motor threshold did not differ between groups. APB and ADM maps were symmetrical in the younger group, but were reduced on the right compared to the left hemisphere in the older group (p = 0.008). The APB map of the right hemisphere was reduced in the older group compared to the younger (p = 0.021). Older subjects showed higher frequency of MM and worse motor abilities (p < 0.001). The reduction of right ISP area correlated significantly with the worsening of motor performances. Our results showed decreased interhemispheric interactions in the early processes of physiological aging and decreased cortical muscles representation over the non-dominant hemisphere. The decreased ISP and increased frequency of MM suggest a reduction of transcallosal inhibition. These data demonstrate that early processes of normal aging are marked by a dissociation of motor cortices, characterized, at least, by a decline of the non-dominant hemisphere, reinforcing the hypothesis of the right hemi-aging model.
doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00209
PMCID: PMC4128298  PMID: 25157232
physiological aging; transcranial magnetic stimulation; ipsilateral silent period; muscle cortical maps; motor performances
15.  Corneal confocal microscopy reveals trigeminal small sensory fiber neuropathy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Although subclinical involvement of sensory neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been previously demonstrated, corneal small fiber sensory neuropathy has not been reported to-date. We examined a group of sporadic ALS patients with corneal confocal microscopy, a recently developed imaging technique allowing in vivo observation of corneal small sensory fibers. Corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) examination revealed a reduction of corneal small fiber sensory nerve number and branching in ALS patients. Quantitative analysis demonstrated an increase in tortuosity and reduction in length and fractal dimension of ALS patients’ corneal nerve fibers compared to age-matched controls. Moreover, bulbar function disability scores were significantly related to measures of corneal nerve fibers anatomical damage. Our study demonstrates for the first time a corneal small fiber sensory neuropathy in ALS patients. This finding further suggests a link between sporadic ALS and facial-onset sensory and motor neuronopathy (FOSMN) syndrome, a rare condition characterized by early sensory symptoms (with trigeminal nerve distribution), followed by wasting and weakness of bulbar and upper limb muscles. In addition, the finding supports a model of neurodegeneration in ALS as a focally advancing process.
doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00278
PMCID: PMC4199282  PMID: 25360111
motor neuron disease; neuropathy; facial-onset sensory and motor neuronopathy; neuroophthalmology; neuromuscular; cornea; ALS
16.  Extramotor Damage Is Associated with Cognition in Primary Lateral Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82017.
Objectives
This is a cross-sectional study aimed at investigating cognitive performances in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and using diffusion tensor (DT) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the topographical distribution of microstructural white matter (WM) damage in patients with or without cognitive deficits.
Methods
DT MRI scans were obtained from 21 PLS patients and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. All PLS patients underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Tract-based-spatial-statistics (TBSS) was used to perform a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial, radial (radD) and mean diffusivity (MD).
Results
Ten PLS patients had abnormal scores in at least one neuropsychological test (PLS with cognitive deficits, PLS-cd). Compared with healthy controls and cognitively unimpaired PLS patients (PLS-cu), PLS-cd cases showed decreased FA and increased MD and radD in the corticospinal tract (CST), corpus callosum, brainstem, anterior limb of internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, fornix, thalamic radiations, and parietal lobes, bilaterally. Compared with healthy controls, PLS-cd patients showed further decreased FA and increased radD in the cerebellar WM, bilaterally. Compared with controls, PLS-cu patients showed decreased FA in the mid-body of corpus callosum. In PLS, executive and language test scores correlated with WM damage.
Conclusions
This is the first study evaluating the relationship between cognitive performance and WM tract damage in PLS patients. PLS can be associated with a multi-domain cognitive impairment. WM damage to interhemispheric, limbic and major associative WM tracts seem to be the structural correlate of cognitive abnormalities in these patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082017
PMCID: PMC3857796  PMID: 24349172
17.  Assessment of cardiac safety during fingolimod treatment initiation in a real-world relapsing multiple sclerosis population: a phase 3b, open-label study 
Journal of Neurology  2013;261(2):267-276.
The aim of this study was to evaluate short-term safety and tolerability of fingolimod in a real-world population with relapsing multiple sclerosis, focusing on cardiac safety during treatment initiation. Patients received fingolimod 0.5 mg once daily for four months. Patients excluded from the pivotal studies with certain pre-existing cardiac conditions or baseline cardiac findings (PCCs), and those receiving beta blockers (BBs) and/or calcium channel blockers (CCBs), were eligible. Heart rate (HR) and electrical conduction events were monitored using ambulatory electrocardiography for at least 6 h after the first dose. Of 2,417 enrolled patients, 2,282 (94.4 %) completed the study. Fingolimod initiation was associated with a transient, mostly asymptomatic decrease in HR. Bradycardia adverse events occurred in 0.6 % of patients and were more frequent in individuals receiving BBs/CCBs (3.3 %) than in other patient subgroups (0.5–1.4 %); most events were asymptomatic, and all patients recovered without pharmacological intervention. In the 6 h post-dose, the incidences of Mobitz type I second-degree atrioventricular block (AVB) and 2:1 AVB were higher in patients with PCCs (4.1 and 2.0 %, respectively) than in those without (0.9 and 0.3 %, respectively); at pre-dose screening, patients with PCCs had the same incidence of Mobitz type I second-degree AVB (4.1 %) and a slightly lower incidence of 2:1 AVB (0.7 %) than 6 h post-dose. All recorded conduction abnormalities were asymptomatic. This study adds to the evidence showing that cardiac effects during fingolimod initiation remain consistent with those known from previous, controlled studies, even if patients with PCCs are included.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7115-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7115-8
PMCID: PMC3915082  PMID: 24221641
Fingolimod; Multiple sclerosis; Safety; Tolerability
18.  Teriflunomide reduces relapse-related neurological sequelae, hospitalizations and steroid use 
Journal of Neurology  2013;260(10):2472-2480.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses impose a substantial clinical and economic burden. Teriflunomide is a new oral disease-modifying therapy approved for the treatment of relapsing MS. We evaluated the effects of teriflunomide treatment on relapse-related neurological sequelae and healthcare resource use in a post hoc analysis of the Phase III TEMSO study. Confirmed relapses associated with neurological sequelae [defined by an increase in Expanded Disability Status Scale/Functional System (sequelae-EDSS/FS) ≥30 days post relapse or by the investigator (sequelae-investigator)] were analyzed in the modified intention-to-treat population (n = 1086). Relapses requiring hospitalization or intravenous (IV) corticosteroids, all hospitalizations, emergency medical facility visits (EMFV), and hospitalized nights for relapse were also assessed. Annualized rates were derived using a Poisson model with treatment, baseline EDSS strata, and region as covariates. Risks of sequelae and hospitalization per relapse were calculated as percentages and groups were compared with a χ2 test. Compared with placebo, teriflunomide reduced annualized rates of relapses with sequelae-EDSS/FS [7 mg by 32 % (p = 0.0019); 14 mg by 36 % (p = 0.0011)] and sequelae-investigator [25 % (p = 0.071); 53 % (p < 0.0001)], relapses leading to hospitalization [36 % (p = 0.015); 59 % (p < 0.0001)], and relapses requiring IV corticosteroids [29 % (p = 0.001); 34 % (p = 0.0003)]. Teriflunomide-treated patients spent fewer nights in hospital for relapse (p < 0.01). Teriflunomide 14 mg also decreased annualized rates of all hospitalizations (p = 0.01) and EMFV (p = 0.004). The impact of teriflunomide on relapse-related neurological sequelae and relapses requiring healthcare resources may translate into reduced healthcare costs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00415-013-6979-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-6979-y
PMCID: PMC3824843  PMID: 23852658
Clinical trial; Economics; Multiple sclerosis; Outcome assessment (Health Care); Teriflunomide
19.  Association of Genetic Markers with CSF Oligoclonal Bands in Multiple Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64408.
Objective
to explore the association between genetic markers and Oligoclonal Bands (OCB) in the Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF) of Italian Multiple Sclerosis patients.
Methods
We genotyped 1115 Italian patients for HLA-DRB1*15 and HLA-A*02. In a subset of 925 patients we tested association with 52 non-HLA SNPs associated with MS susceptibility and we calculated a weighted Genetic Risk Score. Finally, we performed a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) with OCB status on a subset of 562 patients. The best associated SNPs of the Italian GWAS were replicated in silico in Scandinavian and Belgian populations, and meta-analyzed.
Results
HLA-DRB1*15 is associated with OCB+: p = 0.03, Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.6, 95% Confidence Limits (CL) = 1.1–2.4. None of the 52 non-HLA MS susceptibility loci was associated with OCB, except one SNP (rs2546890) near IL12B gene (OR: 1.45; 1.09–1.92). The weighted Genetic Risk Score mean was significantly (p = 0.0008) higher in OCB+ (7.668) than in OCB− (7.412) patients. After meta-analysis on the three datasets (Italian, Scandinavian and Belgian) for the best associated signals resulted from the Italian GWAS, the strongest signal was a SNP (rs9320598) on chromosome 6q (p = 9.4×10−7) outside the HLA region (65 Mb).
Discussion
genetic factors predispose to the development of OCB.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064408
PMCID: PMC3681825  PMID: 23785401
20.  Temporal evolution of neurophysiological and behavioral features of synapsin I/II/III triple knock-out mice 
Epilepsy Research  2013;103(2-3):153-160.
Summary
Deletion of one or more synapsin genes in mice results in a spontaneous epilepsy. In these animals, seizures can be evoked by opening or moving the cage. Aim of the present study was to characterize the evolution of the epileptic phenotype by neurophysiological examination and behavioral observation in synapsin triple knock-out (Syn-TKO) mice. Syn-TKO mice were studied from 20 postnatal days (PND) up to 6 months of age by video-EEG recording and behavioral observation. Background EEG spectral analysis was performed and data were compared to WT animals. Syn-TKO revealed rare spontaneous seizures and increased susceptibility to evoked seizures in mice from 60 to 100 PND. Spontaneous and evoked seizures presented similar duration and morphology. At times, seizures were followed by a post-ictal phase characterized by a 4 Hz rhythmic activity and immobility of the animal. Spectral analysis of background EEG evidenced a slowing of the theta-alpha peak in Syn-TKO mice compared to WT mice within the period from PND 40 to 100. These data indicate that Syn-TKO mice do not exhibit a linear progression of the epileptic phenotype, with the period corresponding to a higher susceptibility to evoked seizures characterized by background EEG slowing. This aspect might be connected to brain dysfunction often associated to epilepsy in the interictal period.
doi:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2012.07.012
PMCID: PMC3574234  PMID: 22846639
Syn-TKO, synapsin triple knock-out; PND, postnatal day; DSA, density spectral array; EEG, electroencephalography; EMG, electromyography; MDF, mean dominant frequency; FFT, fast Fourier transform; Synapsins; Epilepsy; Electroencephalography (EEG); Spectral analysis; C57BL/6 mice
21.  Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells instruct phagocytes and reduce secondary tissue damage in the injured spinal cord 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2012;135(Pt 2):447-460.
Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells possess peculiar therapeutic plasticity and can simultaneously instruct several therapeutic mechanisms in addition to cell replacement. Here, we interrogated the therapeutic plasticity of neural stem/precursor cells after their focal implantation in the severely contused spinal cord. We injected syngeneic neural stem/precursor cells at the proximal and distal ends of the contused mouse spinal cord and analysed locomotor functions and relevant secondary pathological events in the mice, cell fate of transplanted neural stem/precursor cells, and gene expression and inflammatory cell infiltration at the injured site. We used two different doses of neural stem/precursor cells and two treatment schedules, either subacute (7 days) or early chronic (21 days) neural stem/precursor cell transplantation after the induction of experimental thoracic severe spinal cord injury. Only the subacute transplant of neural stem/precursor cells enhanced the recovery of locomotor functions of mice with spinal cord injury. Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells survived undifferentiated at the level of the peri-lesion environment and established contacts with endogenous phagocytes via cellular–junctional coupling. This was associated with significant modulation of the expression levels of important inflammatory cell transcripts in vivo. Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells skewed the inflammatory cell infiltrate at the injured site by reducing the proportion of ‘classically-activated’ (M1-like) macrophages, while promoting the healing of the injured cord. We here identify a precise window of opportunity for the treatment of complex spinal cord injuries with therapeutically plastic somatic stem cells, and suggest that neural stem/precursor cells have the ability to re-programme the local inflammatory cell microenvironment from a ‘hostile’ to an ‘instructive’ role, thus facilitating the healing or regeneration past the lesion.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr339
PMCID: PMC3558737  PMID: 22271661
neural stem cells; spinal cord injury; cell transplantation; macrophages; immune regulation; tissue healing
22.  Italian multicentre observational study of the prevalence of CCSVI in multiple sclerosis (CoSMo study): rationale, design, and methodology 
Neurological Sciences  2013;34(8):1297-1307.
Chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) has been proposed as a “congenital malformation” implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, numerous studies failed to confirm its presence in MS patients. This paper presents the rationale, design, and methodology adopted in the CoSMo study, conducted with the aim of verifying whether or not CCSVI is linked to MS. The primary endpoint of the CoSMo study is to compare the prevalence of CCSVI in patients with MS versus patients affected by other neurodegenerative diseases (OND) and healthy volunteers. CoSMo is a multicenter, blinded, prevalence study recruiting 2,000 adult subjects, involving 43 MS centers across Italy. Assessment of the presence or absence of CCSVI is performed by color-coded duplex (CCD) sonography and two out of the five criteria according to Zamboni are necessary for the diagnosis of CCSVI. Local CCD examination carried out by a certified sonologist and the central image readings performed by experts in the field are blinded. An advanced protocol is also described in this paper. The application of a rigorous methodological design will definitively confirm whether an association exists between CCSVI and MS. Should an association be observed, this study also further examines the link between CCSVI and the severity of MS. The addition of subgroups without MS and OND also provides information on whether CCSVI is specific to MS only. Results from the CoSMo study will play a crucial role in the possible studies concerning the potential treatment of CCSVI in MS.
doi:10.1007/s10072-012-1269-5
PMCID: PMC3747324  PMID: 23344741
Multiple sclerosis; CCSVI; Color-coded duplex sonography; Observational; Multicenter; CoSMo
23.  Nonfluent/agrammatic PPA with in-vivo cortical amyloidosis and Pick’s disease pathology 
Behavioural neurology  2013;26(1):95-106.
The role of biomarkers in predicting pathological findings in the frontotemporal dementia (FTD) clinical spectrum disorders is still being explored. We present comprehensive, prospective longitudinal data for a 66 year old, right-handed female who met current criteria for the nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA). She first presented with a 3-year history of progressive speech and language impairment mainly characterized by severe apraxia of speech. Neuropsychological and general motor functions remained relatively spared throughout the clinical course. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) showed selective cortical atrophy of the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and underlying insula that worsened over time, extending along the left premotor strip. Five years after her first evaluation, she developed mild memory impairment and underwent PET-FDG and PiB scans that showed left frontal hypometabolism and cortical amyloidosis. Three years later (11 years from first symptom), post-mortem histopathological evaluation revealed Pick’s disease, with severe degeneration of left IFG, mid-insula, and precentral gyrus. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (CERAD frequent / Braak Stage V) was also detected. This patient demonstrates that biomarkers indicating brain amyloidosis should not be considered conclusive evidence that AD pathology accounts for a typical FTD clinical/anatomical syndrome.
doi:10.3233/BEN-2012-120255
PMCID: PMC3526142  PMID: 22713404
Nonfluent primary progressive aphasia; PPA; apraxia of speech; Voxel-based morphometry; PiB-PET; Pick’s disease; Alzheimer disease; Frontotemporal dementia
24.  Different Frontal Involvement in ALS and PLS Revealed by Stroop Event-Related Potentials and Reaction Times 
Background: A growing body of evidence suggests a link between cognitive and pathological changes in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Cognitive deficits have been investigated much less extensively in primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) than in ALS.
Objective: To investigate bioelectrical activity to Stroop test, assessing frontal function, in ALS, PLS, and control groups.
Methods: Thirty-two non-demented ALS patients, 10 non-demented PLS patients, and 27 healthy subjects were included. Twenty-nine electroencephalography channels with binaural reference were recorded during covert Stroop task performance, involving mental discrimination of the stimuli and not vocal or motor response. Group effects on event-related potentials (ERPs) latency were analyzed using statistical multivariate analysis. Topographic analysis was performed using low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA).
Results: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients committed more errors in the execution of the task but they were not slower, whereas PLS patients did not show reduced accuracy, despite a slowing of reaction times (RTs). The main ERP components were delayed in ALS, but not in PLS, compared with controls. Moreover, RTs speed but not ERP latency correlated with clinical scores. ALS had decreased frontotemporal activity in the P2, P3, and N4 time windows compared to controls.
Conclusion: These findings suggest a different pattern of psychophysiological involvement in ALS compared with PLS. The former is increasingly recognized to be a multisystems disorder, with a spectrum of executive and behavioral impairments reflecting frontotemporal dysfunction. The latter seems to mainly involve the motor system, with largely spared cognitive functions. Moreover, our results suggest that the covert version of the Stroop task used in the present study, may be useful to assess cognitive state in the very advanced stage of the disease, when other cognitive tasks are not applicable.
doi:10.3389/fnagi.2013.00082
PMCID: PMC3860257  PMID: 24376417
ALS; PLS; cognitive impairment; ERP; Stroop task; executive function
25.  Epidural analgesia and cesarean delivery in multiple sclerosis post-partum relapses: the Italian cohort study 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:165.
Background
Few studies have systematically addressed the role of epidural analgesia and caesarean delivery in predicting the post-partum disease activity in women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The objective of this study was to assess the impact of epidural analgesia (EA) and caesarean delivery (CD) on the risk of post-partum relapses and disability in women with MS.
Methods
In the context of an Italian prospective study on the safety of immunomodulators in pregnancy, we included pregnancies occurred between 2002 and 2008 in women with MS regularly followed-up in 21 Italian MS centers. Data were gathered through a standardized, semi-structured interview, dealing with pregnancy outcomes, breastfeeding, type of delivery (vaginal or caesarean) and EA. The risk of post-partum relapses and disability progression (1 point on the Expanded Disability Status Sclae, EDSS, point, confirmed after six months) was assessed through a logistic multivariate regression analysis.
Results
We collected data on 423 pregnancies in 415 women. Among these, 349 pregnancies resulted in full term deliveries, with a post-partum follow-up of at least one year (mean follow-up period 5.5±3.1 years). One hundred and fifty-five patients (44.4%) underwent CD and 65 (18.5%) EA. In the multivariate analysis neither CD, nor EA were associated with a higher risk of post-partum relapses. Post-partum relapses were related to a higher EDSS score at conception (OR=1.42; 95% CI 1.11-1.82; p=0.005), a higher number of relapses in the year before pregnancy (OR=1.62; 95% CI 1.15-2.29; p=0.006) and during pregnancy (OR=3.07; 95% CI 1.40-6.72; p=0.005). Likewise, CD and EA were not associated with disability progression on the EDSS after delivery. The only significant predictor of disability progression was the occurrence of relapses in the year after delivery (disability progression in the year after delivery: OR= 4.00; 95% CI 2.0-8.2; p<0.001; disability progression over the whole follow-up period: OR= 2.0; 95% CI 1.2-3.3; p=0.005).
Conclusions
Our findings, show no correlation between EA, CD and postpartum relapses and disability. Therefore these procedures can safely be applied in MS patients. On the other hand, post-partum relapses are significantly associated with increased disability, which calls for the need of preventive therapies after delivery.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-165
PMCID: PMC3544735  PMID: 23276328
Epidural analgesia; Caesarean delivery; Multiple sclerosis; Pregnancy

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