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1.  The Communication of Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis: The Patients' Perspective 
Background. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the leading cause of nontraumatic neurological disability in young adults in Europe and in the United States. The uncertainty regarding its evolution makes the diagnosis disclosure a difficult process. Objective. The aim of the study was to provide patients' global perspective towards MS diagnosis communication. Methods. 150 consecutive patients, recently diagnosed with CIS or MS, were asked to complete a 17-item questionnaire assessing factors influencing their satisfaction with the information provided. Results. Eighty-six patients fulfilled diagnostic criteria for MS and 64 for CIS. Diagnosis disclosure took place in a private setting and required in most cases (87.3%) less than 30 minutes. Most patients reported being moderately or highly satisfied with the information provided (75%). The degree of satisfaction seems significantly related to patients' younger age, a longer time dedicated to disclose the diagnosis, a CIS diagnosis, and, above all, tailored information and an adequate emotional support. Conclusion. Most patients reported a good degree of satisfaction about the communication of MS or CIS diagnosis. A fruitful relationship between patient and neurologist is essential to obtain a better acceptance of the disease, patients' compliance with chronic treatments and to improve patients' quality of life.
PMCID: PMC4693007  PMID: 26788369
2.  Ceruloplasmin functional changes in Parkinson’s disease-cerebrospinal fluid 
Ceruloplasmin, a ferroxidase present in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), plays a role in iron homeostasis protecting tissues from oxidative damage. Its reduced enzymatic activity was reported in Parkinson’s disease (PD) contributing to the pathological iron accumulation. We previously showed that ceruloplasmin is modified by oxidation in vivo, and, in addition, in vitro by deamidation of specific NGR-motifs that foster the gain of integrin-binding function. Here we investigated whether the loss of ceruloplasmin ferroxidase activity in the CSF of PD patients was accompanied by NGR-motifs deamidation and gain of function.
We have found that endogenous ceruloplasmin in the CSF of PD patients showed structural changes, deamidation of the 962NGR-motif which is usually hidden within the ceruloplasmin structure, and the gain of integrin-binding function. These effects occur owing to the presence of abnormal levels of hydrogen peroxide we detected in the CSF of PD patients. Interestingly, the pathological CSF's environment of PD patients promoted the same modifications in the exogenously added ceruloplasmin, which in turn resulted in loss of ferroxidase-activity and acquisition of integrin-binding properties.
We show that in pathological oxidative environment of PD-CSF the endogenous ceruloplasmin, in addition to loss-of-ferroxidase function, is modified as to gain integrin-binding function. These findings, beside the known role of ceruloplasmin in iron homeostasis, might have important pathogenic implications due to the potential triggering of signals mediated by the unusual integrin binding in cells of central nervous system. Furthermore, there are pharmacological implications because, based on data obtained in murine models, the administration of ceruloplasmin has been proposed as potential therapeutic treatment of PD, however, the observed CSF's pro-oxidant properties raise the possibility that in human the ceruloplasmin-based therapeutic approach might not be efficacious.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0055-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4634150  PMID: 26537957
Ceruloplasmin; Parkinson; Oxidative stress; Deamidation; Integrin-binding; Ferroxidase; NGR and isoDGR motif; Hydrogen peroxide
3.  Myeloid cells as target of fingolimod action in multiple sclerosis 
To track the effects of fingolimod, an approved drug for multiple sclerosis (MS), on the activation of myeloid cells from the periphery to the CNS.
In vitro and ex vivo immunologic studies coupled with flow cytometry were performed to evaluate the action of fingolimod on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)–induced expression of activation markers in human monocytes from healthy participants, participants with untreated MS, and participants with fingolimod-treated MS. In vivo administration of fingolimod during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was established to verify the activation state of splenic, CNS infiltrating, and CNS resident myeloid cells ex vivo at flow cytometer.
We found that in vitro exposure of human monocytes to fingolimod inhibited LPS-induced CD25 and CD150 expression and tumor necrosis factor–α (TNF-α) secretion without altering immune cell survival. Further, EAE treatment with fingolimod led to reduced amounts of TNF-α produced by myeloid cells in vivo in the spleen and CNS. Finally, while displaying normal induction of CD25 and CD150 levels at high LPS concentration, monocytes from patients with fingolimod-treated MS showed significantly higher activation threshold at suboptimal LPS stimulation than controls.
The inhibition of myeloid cell activation may be part of the immunosuppressive action of fingolimod and take place in the periphery and in the CNS.
PMCID: PMC4635549  PMID: 26587553
4.  Autologous mesenchymal stem cells applied on the pressure ulcers had produced a surprising outcome in a severe case of neuromyelitis optica 
Neural Regeneration Research  2015;10(11):1841-1845.
Recent studies provided evidence that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have regenerative potential in cutaneous repair and profound immunomodulatory properties making them a candidate for therapy of neuroimmunologic diseases. Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an autoimmune, demyelinating central nervous system disorder characterized by a longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesion. A 46-year-old male diagnosed with NMO had relapses with paraplegia despite treatment and developed two stage IV pressure ulcers (PUs) on his legs. The patient consented for local application of autologous MSCs on PUs. MSCs isolated from the patient's bone marrow aspirate were multiplied in vitro during three passages and embedded in a tridimensional collagen-rich matrix which was applied on the PUs. Eight days after MSCs application the patient showed a progressive healing of PUs and improvement of disability. Two months later the patient was able to walk 20 m with bilateral assistance and one year later he started to walk without assistance. For 76 months the patient had no relapse and no adverse event was reported. The original method of local application of autologous BM-MSCs contributed to healing of PUs. For 6 years the patient was free of relapses and showed an improvement of disability. The association of cutaneous repair, sustained remission of NMO and improvement of disability might be explained by a promotion/optimization of recovery mechanisms in the central nervous system even if alternative hypothesis should be considered. Further studies are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells in NMO treatment.
PMCID: PMC4705799  PMID: 26807122
neuromyelitis optica; Devic's syndrome; mesenchymal stem cells; multiple sclerosis; pressure ulcers
5.  The Neurophysiologist Perspective into MS Plasticity 
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a frequent, highly debilitating inflammatory demyelinating disease, starting to manifest in early adulthood and presenting a wide variety of symptoms, which are often resistant to pharmacological treatments. Cortical dysfunctions have been demonstrated to be key components of MS condition, and plasticity of the corticospinal motor system is highly involved in major MS symptoms, such as fatigue, spasticity, or pain. Cortical dysfunction in MS can be studied with neurophysiological tools, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and related techniques (evoked potentials) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). These techniques are now widely used to provide essential elements of MS diagnosis and can also be used to modulate plasticity. Indeed, the recent development of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques able to induce cortical plasticity, such as repetitive TMS or transcranial direct current stimulation, has brought promising results as add-on treatments. In this review, we will focus on the use of these tools (EEG and TMS) to study plasticity in MS and on the major techniques used to modulate plasticity in MS.
PMCID: PMC4558527  PMID: 26388835
multiple sclerosis; transcranial magnetic stimulation; non-invasive brain stimulation; electroencephalography; plasticity
6.  Predictors of disease activity in 857 patients with MS treated with interferon beta-1b 
Journal of Neurology  2015;262(11):2466-2471.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic demyelinating neurodegenerative disease of the CNS that requires long-term treatment. The identification of patient characteristics that can help predict disease outcomes could improve care for patients with MS. The objective of this study is to identify predictors of disease activity in patients from the BEYOND trial. This regression analysis of patients with relapsing–remitting MS from BEYOND examined the predictive value of patient characteristics at baseline and after 1 year of treatment with interferon beta-1b 250 μg every other day for clinical and MRI outcomes after year 1 of the study. 857 and 765 patients were included in the analyses of clinical and MRI outcomes, respectively. In multivariate analyses of age, a higher number of relapses in the past 2 years, ≥3 new MRI lesions in the first year, and, especially, a higher number of relapses in year 1 predicted the future occurrence of relapses. By contrast, age, MRI activity, and the presence of neutralizing antibodies in the first year were principally predictive of future MRI activity. In patients with continued clinical disease activity or substantial MRI activity on therapy, an alternative therapeutic approach should be strongly considered.
PMCID: PMC4639578  PMID: 26239222
Multiple sclerosis; Interferon beta-1b; MRI lesion; Relapse; Predictor
7.  Impact of MS genetic loci on familial aggregation, clinical phenotype, and disease prediction 
To investigate the role of known multiple sclerosis (MS)-associated genetic variants in MS familial aggregation, clinical expression, and accuracy of disease prediction in sporadic and familial cases.
A total of 1,443 consecutive patients were screened for MS and familial autoimmune history in a hospital-based Italian cohort. Among them, 461 sporadic and 93 familial probands were genotyped for 107 MS-associated polymorphisms. Their effect sizes were combined to calculate the weighted genetic risk score (wGRS).
Family history of MS was reported by 17.2% of probands, and 33.8% reported a familial autoimmune disorder, with autoimmune thyroiditis and psoriasis being the most frequent. No difference in wGRS was observed between sporadic and familial MS cases. In contrast, a lower wGRS was observed in probands with greater familial aggregation (>1 first-degree relative or >2 relatives with MS) (p = 0.03). Also, female probands of familial cases with greater familial aggregation had a lower wGRS than sporadic cases (p = 0.0009) and male probands of familial cases (p = 0.04). An inverse correlation between wGRS and age at onset was observed (p = 0.05). The predictive performance of the genetic model including all known MS variants was modest but greater in sporadic vs familial cases (area under the curve = 0.63 and 0.57).
Additional variants outside the known MS-associated loci, rare variants, and/or environmental factors may explain disease occurrence within families; in females, hormonal and epigenetic factors probably have a predominant role in explaining familial aggregation. The inclusion of these additional factors in future versions of aggregated genetic measures could improve their predictive ability.
PMCID: PMC4503410  PMID: 26185776
8.  Switching from natalizumab to fingolimod 
Neurology  2015;85(1):29-39.
To investigate the effect of different natalizumab washout (WO) periods on recurrence of MRI and clinical disease activity in patients switching from natalizumab to fingolimod.
In this multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (TOFINGO), patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) were randomized 1:1:1 to 8-, 12-, or 16-week WO followed by fingolimod treatment over 32 weeks from last natalizumab infusion (LNI). Brain MRI was performed at baseline and weeks 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24.
Of 142 enrolled and randomized patients, 112 (78.9%) completed the study (8 weeks, n = 41/50; 12 weeks, n = 31/42; 16 weeks, n = 40/50). Number (95% confidence interval [CI]) of active (new/newly enlarged T2) lesions from LNI through 8 weeks of fingolimod treatment (primary outcome) was similar in the 8-week (2.1 [1.7–2.6]) and 12-week WO groups (1.7 [1.3–2.2]) and higher in the 16-week WO group (8.2 [7.3–9.1]). During the WO period only, the number (95% CI) of active lesions increased with increasing WO duration (8 weeks, 0.4 [0.2–0.6]; 12 weeks, 2.1 [1.6–2.6]; 16 weeks, 3.6 [3.0–4.2]). Over the 24 weeks from LNI, gadolinium-enhancing T1 lesion counts were lower in the 8-week WO group (14.1 [5.67–22.53]) than in the 12-week (21.3 [1.41–41.19]) or 16-week (18.5 [8.40–28.60]) WO groups. More patients were relapse-free in the 8-week (88%) and 12-week (91%) WO groups than the 16-week WO group (84%). Sixty-eight percent of patients experienced adverse events (mostly mild/moderate), with similar incidence across groups. No unusually severe relapses or opportunistic infections occurred.
Initiating fingolimod therapy 8–12 weeks after natalizumab discontinuation is associated with a lower risk of MRI and clinical disease reactivation than initiation after 16-week WO.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class II evidence that for patients with RRMS switching from natalizumab to fingolimod, shorter natalizumab WO periods are associated with less MRI disease activity than are longer WO periods.
PMCID: PMC4501941  PMID: 26024899
9.  In vivo signatures of nonfluent/agrammatic primary progressive aphasia caused by FTLD pathology 
Neurology  2014;82(3):239-247.
To identify early cognitive and neuroimaging features of sporadic nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA) caused by frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) subtypes.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3902758  PMID: 24353332
10.  Metallothioneins as Dynamic Markers for Brain Disease in Lysosomal Disorders 
Annals of neurology  2014;75(1):127-137.
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.
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.
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.
Metallothioneins are potential markers of neurologic disease processes and treatment response in LSDs.
PMCID: PMC4237725  PMID: 24242821
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC3737385  PMID: 23632946
Multiple sclerosis; Randomized clinical trial; Fingolimod; Interferon-beta; MRI; Subgroup analysis
12.  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.
PMCID: PMC4117366  PMID: 24871874
13.  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.
PMCID: PMC4155167  PMID: 24972678
Clinical trial; Economics; Multiple sclerosis; Outcome assessment (healthcare); Teriflunomide
14.  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.
PMCID: PMC4061729  PMID: 24559639
Biomaterials; Peripheral nervous system; Nerve regeneration; Medical device
15.  Brain reserve and cognitive reserve in multiple sclerosis 
Neurology  2013;80(24):2186-2193.
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).
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3721094  PMID: 23667062
16.  Paternal therapy with disease modifying drugs in multiple sclerosis and pregnancy outcomes: a prospective observational multicentric study 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:114.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC4059028  PMID: 24884599
Multiple sclerosis; Paternity; Pregnancy; Interferon beta; Glatiramer acetate
17.  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):1353-1360.
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.
PMCID: PMC3832895  PMID: 24076602
18.  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.
PMCID: PMC3986392  PMID: 24733382
19.  Safety of the first dose of fingolimod for multiple sclerosis: results of an open-label clinical trial 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:65.
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.
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.
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.
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
PMCID: PMC4005629  PMID: 24690227
Atrioventricular block; Bradycardia; Multiple sclerosis; Fingolimod; Safety; Tolerability
20.  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.
PMCID: PMC3984797  PMID: 24741637
21.  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.
PMCID: PMC3948518  PMID: 24413638
Interferon beta; First clinical demyelinating event; Clinically isolated syndrome; McDonald MS; Clinically definite MS
22.  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.
PMCID: PMC4128298  PMID: 25157232
physiological aging; transcranial magnetic stimulation; ipsilateral silent period; muscle cortical maps; motor performances
23.  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.
PMCID: PMC4199282  PMID: 25360111
motor neuron disease; neuropathy; facial-onset sensory and motor neuronopathy; neuroophthalmology; neuromuscular; cornea; ALS
24.  Extramotor Damage Is Associated with Cognition in Primary Lateral Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82017.
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.
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).
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3857796  PMID: 24349172
25.  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.
PMCID: PMC3915082  PMID: 24221641
Fingolimod; Multiple sclerosis; Safety; Tolerability

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