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J Child Neurol. 2003 Nov;18(11):776-85.

Hemimegalencephaly: part 2. Neuropathology suggests a disorder of cellular lineage.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics (Neurology), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA.


Cerebral tissue from hemispherectomy in three children (two 4-month-old girls and one 4-year-old boy) with hemimegalencephaly was studied using histochemical and immunocytochemical markers of neuronal and glial maturation and identity. Histologic abnormalities of cellular growth and cytomorphology, including "balloon cells," were present in both gray and white matter, in addition to disorganized tissue architecture. Cells in the mitotic cycle were absent. Many hypertrophic, atypical cells with enlarged processes exhibited mixed or ambiguous lineage, with immunoreactivity for both glial (glial fibrillary acidic protein [GFAP]; S-100beta) and neuronal proteins (microtubule-associated protein 2 [MAP2], neuronal nuclear antigen, chromogranin A, and neurofilament protein [NFP]). Strong vimentin reactivity was present in neurons, as well as glial cells and cells of mixed lineage, suggesting incomplete maturation. Synaptophysin-reactive axons terminated on a minority of balloon cells and on most heterotopic single neurons in white matter, confirmed by electron microscopy, demonstrating that single heterotopic neurons are not synaptically "isolated," as they may appear; thus, they are capable of contributing to epilepsy. Oligodendrocytes are the least affected cells, at least in some cases. The findings are reminiscent of the hamartomas of tuberous sclerosis. We conclude that hemimegalencephaly is a primary disorder of neuroepithelial lineage and cellular growth. A migratory disturbance contributes to disorderly tissue architecture but is secondary. No pathologic difference is detected between isolated and syndromic forms of hemimegalencephaly.

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