JNS.jpgThe November issue of the Journal of the Neurological Sciences Vol 419 is now available online.

 

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Issue highlights

Clinical characteristics and diagnostic clues to Neurometabolic causes of dystonia

Neurometabolic causes of dystonia are heterogenous and can be challenging to diagnose, yet many of these disorders are potentially treatable. The first step in the workup is to clinically phenotype the underlying condition, followed by ordering selected diagnostic tests based on the clinician's judgement and clinical suspicion.

In this review, we highlight the diagnostic clues to various disorders, including lysosomal storage diseases, mitochondrial cytopathies, metal storage disorders, organic acidurias, disorders in carbohydrate metabolism, neurotransmitter diseases and vitamin and cofactor deficiencies.

We discuss key diagnostic clues to the presence of these conditions, as well as currently available treatments. We highlight that recognition and characterization of these secondary causes of dystonia facilitate their management, including possible treatment of the underlying neurometabolic disorder.


Matrix metalloproteinases deregulation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of upper and lower motor neurons that results in progressive paralysis and muscular atrophy. There are many molecules and genes involved in neuromuscular degeneration in ALS; among these, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).

MMPs play an important role in the pathology of ALS, and MMP-1, 2, 3, and 9 might serve as disease progression markers. Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPS) might also function as progression markers in ALS because they participate in regulating the proteolytic activity of MMPs. Moreover, a diversity of genes also plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS; most MMPs-coding genes present variants related to the pathological proteolytic activity.

This short review, however, will focus on the role of matrix metalloproteinases in ALS.


Cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease: A clinical and pathophysiological overview

Cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease (PD) has received increasing attention, and, together with other non-motor symptoms, exert a significant functional impact in the daily lives of patients.

This article aims to compile and briefly summarize selected published data about clinical features, cognitive evaluation, biomarkers, and pathophysiology of PD-related dementia (PDD). The literature search included articles indexed in the MEDLINE/PubMed database, published in English, over the last two decades.

Despite significant progress on clinical criteria and cohort studies for PD-mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI) and PDD, there are still knowledge gaps about its exact molecular and pathological basis. Here we overview the scientific literature on the role of functional circuits, neurotransmitter systems (monoaminergic and cholinergic), basal forebrain, and brainstem nuclei dysfunction in PD-MCI. Correlations between neuroimaging and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, clinical outcomes, and pathological results are described to aid in uncovering the neurodegeneration pattern in PD-MCI and PDD.


Western Pacific ALS-PDC: Evidence implicating cycad genotoxins

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Parkinsonism-Dementia Complex (ALS-PDC) is a disappearing neurodegenerative disorder of apparent environmental origin formerly hyperendemic among Chamorros of Guam-USA, Japanese residents of the Kii Peninsula, Honshu Island, Japan and Auyu-Jakai linguistic groups of Papua-Indonesia on the island of New Guinea.

The most plausible etiology is exposure to genotoxins in seed of neurotoxic cycad plants formerly used for food and/or medicine. Primary suspicion falls on methylazoxymethanol (MAM), the aglycone of cycasin and on the non-protein amino acid β- N-methylamino-L-alanine, both of which are metabolized to formaldehyde. Human and animal studies suggest: (a) exposures occurred early in life and sometimes during late fetal brain development, (b) clinical expression of neurodegenerative disease appeared years or decades later, and (c) pathological changes in various tissues indicate the disease was not confined to the CNS. Experimental evidence points to toxic molecular mechanisms involving DNA damage, epigenetic changes, transcriptional mutagenesis, neuronal cell-cycle reactivation and perturbation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system that led to polyproteinopathy and culminated in neuronal degeneration.

Lessons learned from research on ALS-PDC include: (a) familial disease may reflect common toxic exposures across generations, (b) primary disease prevention follows cessation of exposure to culpable environmental triggers; and (c) disease latency provides a prolonged period during which to intervene therapeutically.

Exposure to genotoxic chemicals (“slow toxins”) in the early stages of life should be considered in the search for the etiology of ALS-PDC-related neurodegenerative disorders, including sporadic forms of ALS, progressive supranuclear palsy and Alzheimer's disease.