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1.  Sport activity in Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease: A case study of a Paralympic swimmer 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2016;26(9):614-618.
Highlights
•The paper reports a wheelchair-bound CMT 4A patient who became a Paralympic swimmer.•She regularly performed intensive aerobic workout and competed in sprint distance events.•She became a backstroke and freestyle gold medalist in the Italian Championships.•Sport activity increased proximal muscle strength of upper limbs and improved QoL.•Sport activity reduced anxiety, annulled depression and increased self-esteem and self-efficacy.
This study reports the positive physical, emotional and psychosocial changes induced by sport activity in a Paralympic swimmer with Charcot–Marie–Tooth (CMT) type 4A. When we compared evaluations before initiating sport activity with those after five years of competitive activity, we found: i) increased proximal muscles strength of upper limbs; ii) augmented ability to propel wheelchair independently; iii) improved quality of life; iv) reduced trait anxiety and striking improvement of depression; v) enhanced self-esteem. Longitudinal studies in large cohorts to evaluate the positive effects of sport activity are needed to support provision of evidence-based advice to patients and families.
doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2016.06.002
PMCID: PMC5026044  PMID: 27460291
Charcot-Marie-Tooth; Sport; Swimming; Paralympic record; Quality of life; Self-esteem
2.  Microstructural Correlates of Emotional Attribution Impairment in Non-Demented Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0161034.
Impairments in the ability to recognize and attribute emotional states to others have been described in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients and linked to the dysfunction of key nodes of the emotional empathy network. Microstructural correlates of such disorders are still unexplored. We investigated the white-matter substrates of emotional attribution deficits in a sample of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients without cognitive decline. Thirteen individuals with either probable or definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 14 healthy controls were enrolled in a Diffusion Tensor Imaging study and administered the Story-based Empathy Task, assessing the ability to attribute mental states to others (i.e., Intention and Emotion attribution conditions). As already reported, a significant global reduction of empathic skills, mainly driven by a failure in Emotion Attribution condition, was found in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients compared to healthy subjects. The severity of this deficit was significantly correlated with fractional anisotropy along the forceps minor, genu of corpus callosum, right uncinate and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi. The involvement of frontal commissural fiber tracts and right ventral associative fronto-limbic pathways is the microstructural hallmark of the impairment of high-order processing of socio-emotional stimuli in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. These results support the notion of the neurofunctional and neuroanatomical continuum between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161034
PMCID: PMC4981464  PMID: 27513746
3.  CHCH10 mutations in an Italian cohort of familial and sporadic ALS patients 
Neurobiology of aging  2015;36(4):1767.e3-1767.e6.
Mutations in CHCHD10 have recently been described as a cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) co-morbid with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The aim of this study was to assess the frequency and clinical characteristics of CHCHD10 mutations in Italian patients diagnosed with familial (n = 64) and apparently sporadic ALS (n = 224). Three apparently sporadic patients were found to carry c.100C>T (p.Pro34Ser) heterozygous variant in the exon 2 of CHCHD10. This mutation had been previously described in two unrelated French patients with FTD-ALS. However, our patients had a typical ALS, without evidence of FTD, cerebellar or extrapyramidal signs, or sensorineural deficits. We confirm that CHCHD10 mutations account for ∼1% of Italian ALS patients and are a cause of disease in subject without dementia or other atypical clinical signs.
doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.01.017
PMCID: PMC4380794  PMID: 25726362
4.  Recent advances in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Journal of Neurology  2016;263:1241-1254.
ALS is a relentlessly progressive and fatal disease, with no curative therapies available to date. Symptomatic and palliative care, provided in a multidisciplinary context, still remains the cornerstone of ALS management. However, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease has advanced greatly over the past years, giving new hope for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Here, we have reviewed the most recent studies that have contributed to improving both clinical management and our understanding of ALS pathogenesis.
doi:10.1007/s00415-016-8091-6
PMCID: PMC4893385  PMID: 27025851
Motor neuron disease; Pathogenesis; ALS genetics; Clinical management; Neuroimaging
5.  Osteopathic Manual Treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Feasibility Pilot Study 
The Open Neurology Journal  2016;10:59-66.
Background:
Current interventions in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are focused on supporting quality of life (QoL) and easing pain with a multidisciplinary approach.
Objective:
Primary aim of this pilot work assessed feasibility, safety, tolerability and satisfaction of osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) in 14 ALS outpatients.
Methods:
Patients were randomized according to an initial single-blind design (12 weeks, T0-T1), in order to receive OMT (weekly for 4 weeks, and fortnightly for the following 8 weeks) versus usual-care (n=7 each group), followed by an OMT open period (T1-T2, once a week for 8 weeks, n=10). Secondary aims included blind osteopathic assessment of somatic dysfunctions (SD) for goal attainment scale (GAS) calculation, Brief Pain Inventory-short form and McGill QoL-16 items.
Results:
OMT was demonstrated feasible and safe and patients displayed high satisfaction (T1-VAS=8.34 ± 0.46; T2-VAS=8.52 ± 0.60). Considering secondary aims no significant differences emerged. Finally, at study entry (T0), a cervico-dorsal SD was found in 78% of ALS patients versus 28% of healthy matched controls (p<0.01).
Conclusion:
OMT was found feasible, safe and satisfactory in ALS. The lack of secondary aim differences can be due to the limited sample size. OMT could be an interesting option to explore in ALS.
doi:10.2174/1874205X01610010059
PMCID: PMC5009295  PMID: 27651843
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Feasibility; Osteopathic manual treatment; Pilot trial
6.  Meditation Training for People with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Their Caregivers 
Abstract
Objectives: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease that is clinically characterized by progressive weakness leading to death by respiratory insufficiency, usually within three years. Although the patient's intellect and personality usually remain unimpaired, as the disease progresses, the patient becomes immobile, develops wasting, and speech becomes impaired, often resulting in social isolation and a high degree of psychological suffering. Mindfulness meditation has proven to be effective technique for reducing distress in many chronic diseases. However, to date, no study has investigated the effect of mindfulness meditation on patients with ALS.
Design: A mindfulness meditation training program for ALS patients needs to consider the particularities of ALS symptoms, including the loss of muscular functions and difficulties in respiration, together with the subsequent emotional impairments. With these caveats in mind, a modified protocol, based on original mindfulness meditation interventions, has been created specifically for the ALS population.
This article describes the protocol and preliminary results.
doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0268
PMCID: PMC3994974  PMID: 24328393
7.  Valproate Treatment in an ALS Patient Carrying a c.194G>A Spastin Mutation and SMN2 Homozygous Deletion 
Here we report the case of an ALS patient found to carry both a novel heterozygous change (c.194G>A) within the spastin gene and a homozygous deletion of the SMN2 gene. The patient was started on valproic acid (VPA, 600 mg/die per os) considering the capacity of this drug of increasing survival motor neuron through an epigenetic mechanism. Patient clinical course and molecular effects of VPA on skin fibroblasts obtained from the proband are described. This c.194G>A spastin mutation might expand the previously known borders of type 4 spastic paraplegia (SPG4) and we suggest the intriguing possibility that the absence of SMN2 might have acted as a contributory risk factor for starting lower motor neuron damage. Exploring the relationship genocopy-phenocopy in selected ALS patients might represent an interesting strategy for understanding its clinical variability.
doi:10.1155/2014/216094
PMCID: PMC4124810  PMID: 25143843
8.  C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions in the Italian sporadic ALS population 
Neurobiology of Aging  2012;33(8):1848.e15-1848.e20.
It has been recently reported that a large proportion of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (familial ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are associated with a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72. We have assessed 1,757 Italian sporadic ALS cases, 133 from Sardinia, 101 from Sicily, and 1,523 from mainland Italy. Sixty (3.7%) of 1,624 mainland Italians and Sicilians and 9 (6.8%) of the 133 Sardinian sporadic ALS cases carried the pathogenic repeat expansion. None of the 619 regionally-matched control samples (1,238 chromosomes) carried the expansion. Twenty-five cases (36.2%) had behavioral FTD in addition to ALS. FTD or unspecified dementia was also detected in 19 pedigrees (27.5%) in first-degree relatives of ALS patients. Cases carrying the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansion survived one year less than cases who did not carry this mutation. In conclusion, we found that C9ORF72 hexanucloetide repeat expansions represents a sizeable proportion of apparent sporadic ALS in the Italian and Sardinian population, representing by far the commonest mutation in Italy and the second more common in Sardinia.
doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2012.02.011
PMCID: PMC3372681  PMID: 22418734
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; frontotemporal dementia; survival
9.  Clinical characteristics of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis carrying the pathogenic GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion of C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):784-793.
A large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72, a gene located on chromosome 9p21, has been recently reported to be responsible for ∼40% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases of European ancestry. The aim of the current article was to describe the phenotype of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases carrying the expansion by providing a detailed clinical description of affected cases from representative multi-generational kindreds, and by analysing the age of onset, gender ratio and survival in a large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We collected DNA and analysed phenotype data for 141 index Italian familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases (21 of Sardinian ancestry) and 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. Pathogenic repeat expansions were detected in 45 (37.5%) patients from mainland Italy, 12 (57.1%) patients of Sardinian ancestry and nine (22.0%) of the 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. The disease was maternally transmitted in 27 (49.1%) pedigrees and paternally transmitted in 28 (50.9%) pedigrees (P = non-significant). On average, children developed disease 7.0 years earlier than their parents [children: 55.8 years (standard deviation 7.9), parents: 62.8 (standard deviation 10.9); P = 0.003]. Parental phenotype influenced the type of clinical symptoms manifested by the child: of the 13 cases where the affected parent had an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia, the affected child also developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia in nine cases. When compared with patients carrying mutations of other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related genes, those with C9ORF72 expansion had commonly a bulbar onset (42.2% compared with 25.0% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.03) and cognitive impairment (46.7% compared with 9.1% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.0001). Median survival from symptom onset among cases carrying C9ORF72 repeat expansion was 3.2 years lower than that of patients carrying TARDBP mutations (5.0 years; 95% confidence interval: 3.6–7.2) and longer than those with FUS mutations (1.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 1.7–2.1). We conclude that C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions were the most frequent mutation in our large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of Italian, Sardinian and German ancestry. Together with mutation of SOD1, TARDBP and FUS, mutations of C9ORF72 account for ∼60% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Italy. Patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions present some phenotypic differences compared with patients with mutations of other genes or with unknown mutations, namely a high incidence of bulbar-onset disease and comorbidity with frontotemporal dementia. Their pedigrees typically display a high frequency of cases with pure frontotemporal dementia, widening the concept of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr366
PMCID: PMC3286333  PMID: 22366794
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
10.  Respiratory function of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and caregiver distress level: a correlational study 
Background
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a rare, fatal neurodegenerative disorder with no curative treatment characterized by degeneration of motor neurons involving a progressive impairment of motor and respiratory functions. Most patients die of ventilator respiratory failure. Caregivers have a great influence on the patient”s quality of life as well as on the quality of care. Home influence of the caregiver on patient care is notable. To date, no study has investigated how psychological issues of caregivers would influence respiratory variables of ALS patients. The study aimed at finding out if there is a relationship between the respiratory function of ALS patients and the level of distress of their caregivers.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted to investigate respiratory issues (PCF and FVC) and the perception of social support of ALS patients. Caregivers filled questionnaires about trait anxiety, depression, and burden of care. Forty ALS patients and their caregivers were recruited.
Results
FVC and PCF were positively related to patient perception of social support and negatively related to caregiver anxiety, depression, and burden.
Discussion
The distress of ALS caregivers is related to patient respiratory issues. The first and more intuitive explanation emphasizes the impact that the patient’s clinical condition has with respect to the caregiver. However, it is possible to hypothesize that if caregivers feel psychologically better, their patient’s quality of life improves and that a condition of greater well-being and relaxation could also increase ventilatory capacity. Furthermore, care management could be carried out more easily by caregivers who pay more attention to the patient's respiratory needs.
Conclusion
Patient perception of social support and caregiver distress are related to respiratory issues in ALS.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-14
PMCID: PMC3472192  PMID: 22721255
Quality of life; Bio-psycho-social interaction; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Non-invasive ventilation; Health care; Caregivers
11.  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Multiprotein Biomarkers in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25545.
Background
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive motor neuron disease, for which there are still no diagnostic/prognostic test and therapy. Specific molecular biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate clinical studies and speed up the development of effective treatments.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a two-dimensional difference in gel electrophoresis approach to identify in easily accessible clinical samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a panel of protein biomarkers that are closely associated with ALS. Validations and a longitudinal study were performed by immunoassays on a selected number of proteins. The same proteins were also measured in PBMC and spinal cord of a G93A SOD1 transgenic rat model. We identified combinations of protein biomarkers that can distinguish, with high discriminatory power, ALS patients from healthy controls (98%), and from patients with neurological disorders that may resemble ALS (91%), between two levels of disease severity (90%), and a number of translational biomarkers, that link responses between human and animal model. We demonstrated that TDP-43, cyclophilin A and ERp57 associate with disease progression in a longitudinal study. Moreover, the protein profile changes detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of ALS patients are suggestive of possible intracellular pathogenic mechanisms such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, nitrative stress, disturbances in redox regulation and RNA processing.
Conclusions/Significance
Our results indicate that PBMC multiprotein biomarkers could contribute to determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, differential diagnosis, disease severity and progression, and may help to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025545
PMCID: PMC3187793  PMID: 21998667
12.  Clinical Psychology and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal and progressive disease, characterized by progressive muscles weakness, with consequent loss of physical capacities. Psychologists can play an important role in ALS care, by providing clinical activities in every step of the disease, including support and counseling activities directed to patients, their caregivers and to physicians.
doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00033
PMCID: PMC3153752  PMID: 21833203
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; clinical psychology; neurological illness; psychological support; burnout
13.  Impaired Expression of Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 System in Skeletal Muscle of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients 
Muscle & Nerve  2012;45(2):200-208.
Introduction
Adult muscle fibers are a source of growth factors, including insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). These factors influence neuronal survival, axonal growth, and maintenance of synaptic connections.
Methods
We investigated the components of the IGF system in skeletal muscle samples obtained from 17 sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients (sALS) and 29 control subjects (17 with normal muscle and 12 with denervated muscle unrelated to ALS).
Results
The muscle expression of IGF-1 and IGF-binding proteins 3, 4, and 5 (IGF-BP3, -4, and -5, respectively), assessed by immunohistochemistry, was differently decreased in sALS compared with both control groups; conversely, IGF-1 receptor β subunit (IGF-1Rβ) was significantly increased. Western blot analysis confirmed the severe reduction of IGF-1, IGF-BP3, and -BP5 with the increment of IGF-1Rβ in sALS.
Conclusion
In this study we describe the abnormal expression of the IGF-1 system in skeletal muscle of sALS patients that could participate in motor neuron degeneration and should be taken into account when developing treatments with IGF-1. Muscle Nerve, 2012
doi:10.1002/mus.22288
PMCID: PMC3306791  PMID: 22246875
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; IGF-1; IGF-BPs; IGF-1 receptor; skeletal muscle

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