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Concept: Neurodegenerative disorders


Men have a shorter life expectancy compared with women but the underlying factor(s) are not clear. Late-onset, sporadic Alzheimer disease (AD) is a common and lethal neurodegenerative disorder and many germline inherited variants have been found to influence the risk of developing AD. Our previous results show that a fundamentally different genetic variant, i.e., lifetime-acquired loss of chromosome Y (LOY) in blood cells, is associated with all-cause mortality and an increased risk of non-hematological tumors and that LOY could be induced by tobacco smoking. We tested here a hypothesis that men with LOY are more susceptible to AD and show that LOY is associated with AD in three independent studies of different types. In a case-control study, males with AD diagnosis had higher degree of LOY mosaicism (adjusted odds ratio = 2.80, p = 0.0184, AD events = 606). Furthermore, in two prospective studies, men with LOY at blood sampling had greater risk for incident AD diagnosis during follow-up time (hazard ratio [HR] = 6.80, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 2.16-21.43, AD events = 140, p = 0.0011). Thus, LOY in blood is associated with risks of both AD and cancer, suggesting a role of LOY in blood cells on disease processes in other tissues, possibly via defective immunosurveillance. As a male-specific risk factor, LOY might explain why males on average live shorter lives than females.

Concepts: Tobacco smoking, Study design, Medical statistics, Neurodegenerative disorders, Odds ratio, Risk, Cancer, Epidemiology


Elevated expression of specific transposable elements (TEs) has been observed in several neurodegenerative disorders. TEs also can be active during normal neurogenesis. By mining a series of deep sequencing datasets of protein-RNA interactions and of gene expression profiles, we uncovered extensive binding of TE transcripts to TDP-43, an RNA-binding protein central to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Second, we find that association between TDP-43 and many of its TE targets is reduced in FTLD patients. Third, we discovered that a large fraction of the TEs to which TDP-43 binds become de-repressed in mouse TDP-43 disease models. We propose the hypothesis that TE mis-regulation contributes to TDP-43 related neurodegenerative diseases.

Concepts: Evolution, Frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Gene, Molecular biology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Frontotemporal dementia


Signalling through the PERK/eIF2α-P branch of the unfolded protein response plays a critical role in controlling protein synthesis rates in cells. This pathway is overactivated in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders and has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic target for these currently untreatable conditions. Thus, in mouse models of neurodegenerative disease, prolonged overactivation of PERK/eIF2α-P signalling causes sustained attenuation of protein synthesis, leading to memory impairment and neuronal loss. Re-establishing translation rates by inhibition of eIF2α-P activity, genetically or pharmacologically, restores memory and prevents neurodegeneration and extends survival. However, the experimental compounds used preclinically are unsuitable for use in humans, due to associated toxicity or poor pharmacokinetic properties. To discover compounds that have anti-eIF2α-P activity suitable for clinical use, we performed phenotypic screens on a NINDS small molecule library of 1040 drugs. We identified two compounds, trazodone hydrochloride and dibenzoylmethane, which reversed eIF2α-P-mediated translational attenuation in vitro and in vivo. Both drugs were markedly neuroprotective in two mouse models of neurodegeneration, using clinically relevant doses over a prolonged period of time, without systemic toxicity. Thus, in prion-diseased mice, both trazodone and dibenzoylmethane treatment restored memory deficits, abrogated development of neurological signs, prevented neurodegeneration and significantly prolonged survival. In tauopathy-frontotemporal dementia mice, both drugs were neuroprotective, rescued memory deficits and reduced hippocampal atrophy. Further, trazodone reduced p-tau burden. These compounds therefore represent potential new disease-modifying treatments for dementia. Trazodone in particular, a licensed drug, should now be tested in clinical trials in patients.

Concepts: Neurodegeneration, Neuroscience, Protein, Neurodegenerative disorders, Pharmacology, Gene, Neurology, Alzheimer's disease


Filamentous inclusions made of hyperphosphorylated tau are characteristic of numerous human neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, tangle-only dementia, Pick disease, argyrophilic grain disease (AGD), progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. In Alzheimer’s disease and AGD, it has been shown that filamentous tau appears to spread in a stereotypic manner as the disease progresses. We previously demonstrated that the injection of brain extracts from human mutant P301S tau-expressing transgenic mice into the brains of mice transgenic for wild-type human tau (line ALZ17) resulted in the assembly of wild-type human tau into filaments and the spreading of tau inclusions from the injection sites to anatomically connected brain regions. Here we injected brain extracts from humans who had died with various tauopathies into the hippocampus and cerebral cortex of ALZ17 mice. Argyrophilic tau inclusions formed in all cases and following the injection of the corresponding brain extracts, we recapitulated the hallmark lesions of AGD, PSP and CBD. Similar inclusions also formed after intracerebral injection of brain homogenates from human tauopathies into nontransgenic mice. Moreover, the induced formation of tau aggregates could be propagated between mouse brains. These findings suggest that once tau aggregates have formed in discrete brain areas, they become self-propagating and spread in a prion-like manner.

Concepts: Brain, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia, Progressive supranuclear palsy, Cerebral cortex, Tauopathy, Neurodegenerative disorders, Tau protein


Drugs dedicated to alleviate neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have always been associated with debilitating side effects. Medicinal mushrooms which harness neuropharmacological compounds offer a potential possibility for protection against such diseases. Pleurotus giganteus (formerly known as Panus giganteus) has been consumed by the indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia for many years. Domestication of this wild mushroom is gaining popularity but to our knowledge, medicinal properties reported for this culinary mushroom are minimal.

Concepts: Latin America, Pleurotus nebrodensis, Indigenous peoples, Agaricales, Agaricus bisporus, Neurodegenerative disorders, Malaysia, Neurology


We report the presence of infectivity in erythrocytes, leukocytes, and plasma of 1 person with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and in the plasma of 2 in 4 persons whose tests were positive for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The measured infectivity levels were comparable to those reported in various animals with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

Concepts: Neurodegenerative disorders, Encephalopathy, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, Blood, Prion, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and progressive neurodegenerative disease. Despite much research having been conducted about psychological issues involved in living with ALS, anger, and resentment have yet to be investigated. Moreover, the construct of “hope” has received little attention, so far. An online survey was created to investigate hate, resentment, and hope issues in people with ALS, in relation to the willingness to adopt a strict nutrient-dense diet if it were shown to increase longevity. Results indicate that there is a high level of hope in the sample. People who have lived with ALS for more time expressed a higher level of hope to live 10 years or more. Those who are married were more likely to have hope of living 10 years or longer and more likely to have lower levels of hate against ALS. Dietary self-care choices appear to be related to hope issues. Resentment and hate tended to be higher in people who have had ALS for less time, and in women. Despite some methodological limitations, the results suggest that hope, hate, and resentment could be important issues to explore in future studies.

Concepts: Lou Gehrig, Calorie restriction, Neurodegenerative disorders, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Small molecules with antioxidative properties have been implicated in amyloid disorders. Curcumin is the active ingredient present in turmeric and known for several biological and medicinal effects. Adequate evidence substantiates the importance of curcumin in Alzheimer’s disease and recent evidence suggests its role in Prion and Parkinson’s disease. However, contradictory effects have been suggested for Huntington’s disease. This difference provided a compelling reason to investigate the effect of curcumin on glutamine-rich (Q-rich) and non-glutamine-rich (non Q-rich) amyloid aggregates in the well established yeast model system. Curcumin significantly inhibited the formation of htt72Q-GFP (a Q-rich) and Het-s-GFP (a non Q-rich) aggregates in yeast. We show that curcumin prevents htt72Q-GFP aggregation by down regulating Vps36, a component of the ESCRT-II (Endosomal sorting complex required for transport). Moreover, curcumin disrupted the htt72Q-GFP aggregates that were pre-formed in yeast and cured the yeast prion, [PSI(+)].

Concepts: Prion, Neurodegenerative disorders, Turmeric, Model organism, Parkinson's disease, Curcumin, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia


BACKGROUND: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, caused by progressive loss of motor neurons. Changes are widespread in the subcortical white matter in ALS. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) detects pathological changes in white matter fibres in vivo, based on alterations in the degree (diffusivity, ADC) and directedness (fractional anisotropy, FA) of proton movement. METHODS: 24 patients with ALS and 24 age-matched controls received 1.5T DTI.FA and ADC were analyzed using statistical parametric mapping. In 15 of the 24 ALS patients, a second DTI was obtained after 6 months. RESULTS: Decreased FA in the corticospinal tract (CST) and frontal areas confirm existing results. With a direct comparison of baseline and follow-up dataset, the progression of upper motor neuron degeneration, reflected in FA decrease, could be captured along the CST and in frontal areas. The involvement of cerebellum in the pathology of ALS, as suspected from functional MRI studies, could be confirmed by a reduced FA (culmen, declive). These structural changes correlated well with disease duration, ALSFRS-R, and physical and executive functions. CONCLUSION: DTI detects changes that are regarded as prominent features of ALS and thus, shows promise in its function as a biomarker. Using the technique herein, we could demonstrate DTI changes at follow-up which correlated well with clinical progression.

Concepts: Stephen Hawking, Cerebellum, Motor neuron, Neurodegenerative disorders, Magnetic resonance imaging, Neuroimaging, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Spinal cord


Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), share two characteristics in common: (1) a disease prevalence that increases markedly with advancing age, and (2) neuroinflammatory changes in which microglia, the primary resident immune cell of the CNS, feature prominently. These characteristics have led to the hypothesis that pathogenic mechanisms underlying age-related neurodegenerative disease involve aging changes in microglia. If correct, targeting features of microglial senescence may constitute a feasible therapeutic strategy. This review explores this hypothesis and its implications by considering the current knowledge on how microglia undergo change during aging and how the emergence of these aging phenotypes relate to significant alterations in microglial function. Evidence and theories on cellular mechanisms implicated in driving senescence in microglia are reviewed, as are “rejuvenative” measures and strategies that aim to reverse or ameliorate the aging microglial phenotype. Understanding and controlling microglial aging may represent an opportunity for elucidating disease mechanisms and for formulating novel therapies.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Death, Senescence, Medicine, Macular degeneration, Disease, Neurodegenerative disorders, Neurology