Navigation Links
A pan-European study: Signs of motor disorders can appear years before disease manifestation
Date:5/22/2013

The scientists report these findings in the current online edition of "The Lancet Neurology". This pan-European study could open up new possibilities of early diagnosis and smooth the way for treatments which tackle diseases before the patient's nervous system is irreparably damaged.

"Spinocerebellar ataxias" comprise a group of genetic diseases of the cerebellum and other parts of the brain. Persons affected only have limited control of their muscles. They also suffer from balance disorders and impaired speech. The symptoms originate from mutations in the patient's genetic make-up. These cause nerve cells to become damaged and to die off. Such genetic defects are comparatively rare: it is estimated that about 3,000 people in Germany are affected.

It is known that there are various subtypes of these neurodegenerative diseases. The age at which the symptoms manifest consequently fluctuates between about 30 and 50. "Our aim was to find out whether specific signs can be recognized before a disease becomes obvious," says project leader Prof. Thomas Klockgether, Director for Clinical Research at the DZNE and Director of the Clinic for Neurology at Bonn University Hospital.

Pan-European cooperation

The study, which involved 14 research centers in all, focused on the four most common forms of spinocerebellar ataxia. These account for more than half of all cases. More than 250 siblings and children of patients throughout Europe declared their willingness to participate in appropriate tests. These individuals had no obvious symptoms of ataxia. However, about half of them had inherited the genetic defects which invariably cause the disease to manifest in the long term.

With the aid of a mathematical model that considered the genetic mutations and their effects, the scientists were able to estimate the time remaining until the disease could be expected to manifest. In the test group, this "time to onset" varied from 2 to 24 years. These and all other test results remained anonymous: the data was not known to the test subjects, neither could the researchers assign it to specific participants. The same applied to individuals whose DNA turned out to be inconspicuous. "People in families with cases of ataxia usually have not taken a genetic test and they don't want to know any results. This kind of information has to be treated very carefully for ethical reasons," emphasizes Klockgether.

Extensive tests

The study participants made themselves available for various examinations including standardized tests of muscular coordination. These included measuring the time needed by the subjects to walk a specific distance. Another series of experiments involved inserting small pins into the holes of a board and taking them back out as quickly as possible. Yet another test measured how often the participants could repeat a certain sequence of syllables in ten seconds. "The tests were designed in such a way that they would provide significant information but still be easy to perform," says Klockgether. "Tests like these can be performed anywhere without need for special technology."

Technically complex methods were also used: all study participants were tested for the genetic defects relevant to ataxia. At some of the research centers involved in the study, it was also possible to examine the subjects with the aid of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This enabled researchers to measure the total brain volume as well as the dimensions of individual parts of the brain in about a third of the subjects.

Notable findings

In two of the four types of ataxia investigated, the scientists found signs of impending disease. "We found a loss in brain volume, particularly shrinkage in the area of the cerebellum and brain stem. These subjects also had subtle difficulties with coordination," Klockgether summarizes the results. "This means that manifestations of this kind can be measured years before the disease is likely to become obvious."

The findings for the other two types of ataxia were less conclusive. "I assume that there are indications also for these types of the disease. However, this subgroup of participants was relatively small. It is therefore difficult to make statistically reliable statements about these subjects," says the Bonn-based researcher.

In his view, the study results testify to the modern-day view of neurodegenerative processes: "Neurodegeneration doesn't begin when the symptoms surface. Rather, it is a stealthy disease which starts developing years or even decades beforehand."

Klockgether believes that this gradual development offers certain opportunities: "If we intervened in this process by appropriate treatments and at a sufficiently early stage, it might be possible to slow down or even stop the disease process."

More investigations planned

The current results will be the basis for long-term investigations. A new series of tests with the same group of individuals has already started; further tests are scheduled every two years. The scientists intend to monitor the study participants for as long as possible.


'/>"/>

Contact: Marcus Neitzert
marcus.neitzert@dzne.de
49-228-433-02271
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Study: Older Whooping Cough Vaccine More Effective
2. Study: Peer-referral programs can increase HIV-testing in emergency departments
3. Study: Patient openness to research can depend on race and sex of study personnel
4. Study: Brain makes call on which ear is used for cell phone
5. Study: HIV Infection Does Not Adversely Affect Outcomes of Liver Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma
6. Penn pilot study: Group of Bradford Co, Pa. residents concerned about health effects of hydrofracking
7. Great HealthWorks, Inc., makers of Omega XL, Report New Independent Study: Omega-3 DHA Protects Against Liver Disease
8. New IU study: How often is more important than why when describing breakups
9. Study: Physicians less likely to bond with overweight patients
10. The doctor wont see you now? Study: US facing a neurologist shortage
11. Study: Dental bib clips can harbor oral and skin bacteria even after disinfection
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Quality metrics are proliferating in cancer care, and ... in the eye of the beholder, according to experts who offered insights and commentary ... of Managed Care. For the full issue, click here . , For the ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... Many women are ... with endometriosis. These women need a treatment plan to not only alleviate symptoms ... can help for preservation of fertility and ultimately achieving a pregnancy. The specialists ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice Emergency Room , the largest ... as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm facility. , “We are ... Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical Director of First Choice Emergency ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... A recent article published ... unfamiliar with. The article goes on to state that individuals are now more comfortable ... less common operations such as calf and cheek reduction. The Los Angeles area medical ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A. announced that ... chosen by their peers for this recognition are considered among the top 2 percent ... special honors as members of this year’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame: Miami ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Arkis BioSciences, a leading innovator ... more durable cerebrospinal fluid treatments, today announced it ... funding is led by Innova Memphis, followed by ... private investors.  Arkis, new financing will accelerate the ... market release of its in-licensed Endexo® technology. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... DUBLIN , June 23, 2016 ... "Dialysis Devices Global Market - Forecast to 2022" report ... is the treatment method for the patients with kidney failure, ... and excess fluid from the patient,s blood and thus the ... sodium, potassium and chloride in balance. Increasing ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Research and Markets ... Market by Type (Organic Chemical (Sugar, Petrochemical, Glycerin), Inorganic ... Coating, Parenteral) - Global Forecast to 2021" report ... The global pharmaceutical excipients market is projected to ... of 6.1% in the forecast period 2016 to 2021. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: