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J Mol Med (Berl). 2004 Mar;82(3):156-62. Epub 2003 Nov 28.

Role of insulin-like growth factor I signaling in neurodegenerative diseases.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Instituto Cajal, CSIC, Avda Dr Arce 37, 28002 Madrid, Spain.


Disturbed trophic support to neurons has long been considered a potential mechanism in neurodegeneration. Recent evidence indicates that intracellular trophic signaling may be compromised in several neurodegenerative diseases. Changes in the levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), a trophic hormone with multiple neuroprotective actions, have recently been observed in several human neurodegenerative illnesses. Therefore analysis of IGF-I pathways could help provide greater insight into trophic disturbances to neurons. However, neurodegenerative diseases with similar clinical manifestations show either high or low levels of circulating IGF-I. This apparently puzzling observation can be explained if we consider that IGF-I input to target neurons is disrupted by either lower IGF-I availability or by reduced cell sensitivity to IGF-I. The latter disturbance may be associated with high IGF-I levels. We hypothesize that in the majority of neurodegenerative diseases compromised IGF-I support to neurons emerges as part of the pathological cascade during the degenerative process and contributes to neuronal demise. In addition, loss of IGF-I input to specific neuronal populations might be the cause of a small group of neurodegenerative diseases.

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