Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a chronic progressive neuromuscular disorder of unknown etiology, characterized by weakness, muscle wasting, fasciculations, and increased reflexes, with conserved intellect and higher functions. The neuropathology of ALS is mostly confined to damage of the motor neurons in the cerebral cortex, some motor nuclei of the brainstem, and anterior horns of the spinal cord. However, there is evidence for the involvement of other neuronal systems in the disease. In particular, damage of the dopamine neurons has been shown by neurochemical and imaging studies in the brain and spinal cord of ALS patients. Recent reports suggest that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) may represent a useful in vivo model to study neurochemical alterations that occur in neurodegenerative disorders. Here we demonstrate the significant reduction of dopamine transporter immunoreactivity in PBMC of patients affected by ALS with respect to healthy subjects. These results extend our knowledge of damage of the dopamine system in ALS to peripheral cells. Thus, the original concept of ALS as an isolated degeneration of motor neurons seems to extend to a more widespread understanding of the disease with involvement of other neuronal systems in the central as well as peripheral nervous system.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Dopamine transporter
- Peripheral blood mononuclear cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology