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Journal: Translational neurodegeneration


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined by standardized criteria of qualitative impairments in social interaction, qualitative impairments in communication, and restricted and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. A significant number of children diagnosed with ASD suffer a loss of previously-acquired skills, which is suggestive of neurodegeneration or a type of progressive encephalopathy with an etiological pathogenic basis occurring after birth. To date, the etiology of ASD remains under debate, however, many studies suggest toxicity, especially from mercury (Hg), in individuals diagnosed with an ASD. The present study evaluated concerns about the toxic effects of organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal (49.55% Hg by weight) in childhood vaccines by conducting a two-phased (hypothesis generating/hypothesis testing) study with documented exposure to varying levels of Thimerosal from vaccinations.

Concepts: Immune system, Vaccine, Vaccination, Greek loanwords, Autism, Mercury, Toxicity, Autism spectrum


Presenilins (PSs) are the catalytic core of gamma-secretase complex. However, the mechanism of FAD-associated PS mutations in AD pathogenesis still remains elusive. Here we review the general biology and mechanism of gamma-secretase and focus on the catalytic components – presenilins and their biological functions and contributions to the AD pathogenesis. The functions of presenilins are divided into gamma-secretase dependent and gamma-secretase independent ones. The gamma-secretase dependent functions of presenilins are exemplified by the sequential cleavages in the processing of APP and Notch; the gamma-secretase independent functions of presenilins include stabilizing beta-catenin in Wnt signaling pathway, regulating calcium homeostasis and their interaction with synaptic transmission.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, DNA, Biology, Organism, Physiology, Amyloid precursor protein, Presenilin, Real analysis


There is a substantial amount of evidence from experimental parkinsonian models to show the neuroprotective effects of monoamine oxidase-B (MAOB) inhibitors. They have been studied for their potential disease-modifying effects in Parkinson’s disease (PD) for over 20 years in various clinical trials. This review provides a summary of the clinical trials and discusses the implications of their results in the context of disease-modification in PD. Earlier clinical trials on selegiline were confounded by symptomatic effects of this drug. Later clinical trials on rasagiline using delayed-start design provide newer insights in disease-modification in PD but success in achieving the aims of this strategy remain elusive due to obstacles, some of which may be insurmountable.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Parkinsonism, Monoamine oxidase, Selegiline, Rasagiline, Multiple system atrophy, Monoamine oxidase B


A significant number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder suffer a loss of previously-acquired skills, suggesting neurodegeneration or a type of progressive encephalopathy with an etiological basis occurring after birth. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectof the age at which children got their first Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine on autism incidence. This is a reanalysis of the data set, obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), used for the Destefano et al. 2004 publication on the timing of the first MMR vaccine and autism diagnoses.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Autism, Autism spectrum, MMR vaccine


Wilson disease is an autosomal recessive disorder of copper metabolism. Diagnosis depends primarily on clinical features, biochemical parameters and the presence of the Kayser-Fleischer ring. Genetic analysis for mutations within ATP7B is a convincing diagnostic tool. The traditional treatment for WD includes chelation of excessive copper accumulation and reduction of copper intake. Medical therapy is effective but WD is not yet curable. Liver transplantation is especially helpful for patients who fail to respond to medical therapy or present with fulminant liver failure, although evaluation of its long-term effect are still in need.

Concepts: Medicine, Medical terms, Cirrhosis, Liver, Hepatology, Gregor Mendel, Hepatic encephalopathy, Wilson's disease


Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a genetically dominant trinucleotide repeat disorder resulting from CAG repeats within the Huntingtin (HTT) gene exceeding a normal range (> 36 CAGs). Symptoms of the disease manifest in middle age and include chorea, dystonia, and cognitive decline. Typical latency from diagnosis to death is 20 years. There are currently no disease-modifying therapies available to HD patients. RNAi is a potentially curative therapy for HD. A popular line of research employs siRNA or antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) to knock down mutant Huntingtin mRNA (mHTT). Unfortunately, this modality requires repeated dosing, commonly exhibit off target effects (OTEs), and exert renal and hepatic toxicity. In contrast, a single AAV-mediated short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) dose can last years with low toxicity. In addition, we highlight research indicating that shRNA elicits fewer OTEs than siRNA when tested head-to-head. Despite this promise, shRNA therapy has been held back by difficulties controlling expression (oversaturating cells with toxic levels of RNA construct). In this review, we compare RNAi modalities for HD and propose novel methods of optimizing shRNA expression and on-target fidelity.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, RNA, Messenger RNA, Small interfering RNA, Huntington's disease


Common neurodegenerative diseases include Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease (HD). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive and painless method to stimulate the human brain. Single- and paired-pulse TMS paradigms are powerful ways to study the pathophysiological mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases. Motor evoked potential studied with single-pulse TMS is increased in PD, AD and ALS, but is decreased in HD. Changes in motor cortical excitability in neurodegenerative diseases may be related to functional deficits in cortical circuits or to compensatory mechanisms. Reduction or even absence of short interval intracortical inhibition induced by paired-pulse TMS is common in neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that there are functional impairments of inhibitory cortical circuits. Decreased short latency afferent inhibition in AD, PD and HD may be related to the cortical cholinergic deficits in these conditions. Cortical plasticity tested by paired associative stimulation or theta burst stimulation is impaired in PD, AD and HD. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) refers to the application of trains of regularly repeating TMS pulses. High-frequency facilitatory rTMS may improve motor symptoms in PD patients whereas low-frequency inhibitory stimulation is a potential treatment for levodopa induced dyskinesia. rTMS delivered both to the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex improves memory in AD patients. Supplementary motor cortical stimulation in low frequency may be useful for HD patients. However, the effects of treatment with multiple sessions of rTMS for neurodegenerative diseases need to be tested in large, sham-controlled studies in the future before they can be adopted for routine clinical practice.

Concepts: Brain, Neurology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson's disease, Cerebrum, Dementia, Transcranial magnetic stimulation


Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a global health issue given the increasing prevalence rate and the limitations of drug effects. As a consequent, non-pharmacological interventions are of importance. Music therapy (MT) is a non-pharmacological way with a long history of use and a fine usability for dementia patients. In this review, we will summarize different techniques, diverse clinical trials, and the mechanisms of MT as it is helpful to the cognition in AD, providing reference for future research. Many articles have demonstrated that MT can reduce cognitive decline especially in autobiographical and episodic memories, psychomotor speed, executive function domains, and global cognition. MT is a promising intervention for strategy of dementia especially of AD and it must be started as early as possible. However, more evidences with prospective, randomized, blinded, uniform and rigorous methodological investigations are needed. And we should consider to combine MT with other cognitive stimulations such as dance, physical exercise, video game, art and so on.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Psychology, Clinical trial, Cognition, Neurology, Memory, Dementia, Semantic memory


Cognitive impairments are highly prevalent in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and can substantially affect a patient’s quality of life. These impairments remain difficult to manage with current clinical therapies, but exercise has been identified as a possible treatment. The objective of this systematic review was to accumulate and analyze evidence for the effects of exercise on cognition in both animal models of PD and human disease. This systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Fourteen original reports were identified, including six pre-clinical animal studies and eight human clinical studies. These studies used various exercise interventions and evaluated many different outcome measures; therefore, only a qualitative synthesis was performed. The evidence from animal studies supports the role of exercise to improve cognition in humans through the promotion of neuronal proliferation, neuroprotection and neurogenesis. These findings warrant more research to determine what roles these neural mechanisms play in clinical populations. The reports on cognitive changes in clinical studies demonstrate that a range of exercise programs can improve cognition in humans. While each clinical study demonstrated improvements in a marker of cognition, there were limitations in each study, including non-randomized designs and risk of bias. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system was used and the quality of the evidence for human studies were rated from “low” to “moderate” and the strength of the recommendations were rated from “weak” to “strong.” Studies that assessed executive function, compared to general cognitive abilities, received a higher GRADE rating. Overall, this systematic review found that in animal models exercise results in behavioral and corresponding neurobiological changes in the basal ganglia related to cognition. The clinical studies showed that various types of exercise, including aerobic, resistance and dance can improve cognitive function, although the optimal type, amount, mechanisms, and duration of exercise are unclear. With growing support for exercise to improve not only motor symptoms, but also cognitive impairments in PD, health care providers and policy makers should recommend exercise as part of routine management and neurorehabilitation for this disorder.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Epidemiology, Brain, Cognition, Parkinson's disease, Basal ganglia, Thought


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common age-dependent neurodegenerative disease which impairs cognitive function and gradually causes patients to be unable to lead normal daily lives. While the etiology of AD remains an enigma, excessive accumulation of β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) is widely believed to induce pathological changes and cause dementia in brains of AD patients. BACE1 was discovered to initiate the cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP) at the β-secretase site. Only after this cleavage does γ-secretase further cleave the BACE1-cleaved C-terminal APP fragment to release Aβ. Hence, blocking BACE1 proteolytic activity will suppress Aβ generation. Due to the linkage of Aβ to the potential cause of AD, extensive discovery and development efforts have been directed towards potent BACE1 inhibitors for AD therapy. With the recent breakthrough in developing brain-penetrable BACE1 inhibitors, targeting amyloid deposition-mediated pathology for AD therapy has now become more practical. This review will summarize various strategies that have successfully led to the discovery of BACE1 drugs, such as MK8931, AZD-3293, JNJ-54861911, E2609 and CNP520. These drugs are currently in clinical trials and their updated states will be discussed. With the promise of reducing Aβ generation and deposition with no alarming safety concerns, the amyloid cascade hypothesis in AD therapy may finally become validated.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Clinical trial, Peptide, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Enzyme inhibitor, Amyloid precursor protein, Presenilin