Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a primary progressive neurodegenerative disease characterised by neuronal loss of lower motor neurons (in the spinal cord and brainstem) and/or upper motor neurons (in the motor cortex) and subsequent denervation atrophy of skeletal muscle.
A comprehensive examination of muscle pathology from a cohort of clinically confirmed ALS patients, including an investigation of inflammation, complement activation, and deposition of abnormal proteins in order to compare them with findings from an age-matched, control group.
Material and methods
31 muscle biopsies from clinically confirmed ALS patients and 20 normal controls underwent a comprehensive protocol of histochemical and immunohistochemical stains, including HLA-ABC, C5b-9, p62, and TDP-43.
Neurogenic changes were confirmed in 30/31 ALS cases. In one case, no neurogenic changes could be detected. Muscle fibre necrosis was seen in 5/31 cases and chronic mononuclear inflammatory cell infiltration in 5/31 (2 of them overlapped with those showing muscle necrosis). In four biopsies there was an increase in the proportion of cytochrome oxidase (COX) negative fibres (2-3%). p62 faintly stained cytoplasmic bodies in eight cases and none were immunoreactive to TDP-43.
This large series of muscle biopsies from patients with ALS demonstrates neurogenic atrophy is a nearly uniform finding and that mild mitochondrial abnormalities and low-grade inflammation can be seen and do not rule out the diagnosis of ALS. These findings could lend support to the notion that ALS is a complex and heterogeneous disorder.