Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of ACTH, β-lipotropin (β-LPH) and β-endorphin (β-EP) were measured in 15 patients affected by dementia, who underwent also a brain computerized tomography (CT), and in 13 age-matched healthy volunteers. ACTH CSF levels of patients (4.0 ± 2.4 fmol/ml, M ± SD) were significantly lower than in controls (9.8 ± 5.0, P <0.01) the lowest values being found in Alzheimer type of dementia (ATD: 3.1 ± 2.5) and in patients with radiological evidence of cortical atrophy (2.5 ± 1.2), independently of the probable origin of dementia. Although β-LPH and β-EP levels of patients fell within normal range, they were lower in ATD than in dementia sustained on a vascular origin. There was no variation of either peptides concentration in relation to CT findings. These data indicate the ACTH impairment as typical of dementia, supporting in humans the positive role of this peptide on learning and mnesic functions. Moreover, the maintained CSF levels of both β-LPH and β-EP in the dementia sustained on a vascular origin, while lower values were found in ATD, could represent a differentiation between vascular and degenerative diseases of the Central Nervous System (CNS).
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