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Nat Rev Neurol. 2015 Feb;11(2):90-7. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2014.263. Epub 2015 Jan 27.

A new prion disease: relationship with central and peripheral amyloidoses.

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MRC Prion Unit, Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, Department of Molecular Neurosciences, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Prion diseases are typically recognized as rapidly progressive dementing illnesses that also feature myoclonus and cerebellar ataxia. Several families have now been described with a late-onset hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy caused by truncation of prion protein (PrP), and associated with systemic amyloidosis, which was a profoundly unexpected phenotype. The chronic symptoms of this disorder, termed PrP systemic amyloidosis, can be very disabling, and are comparable to familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) caused by transthyretin mutations. Patients require symptomatic therapies directed towards control of nausea, diarrhoea, incontinence, neuropathic pain and postural hypotension. Although the potential transmissibility of this new prion disease is probably extremely low, we advocate PrP gene analysis before biopsy in the investigation of peripheral and autonomic neuropathies, or for patients with unexplained diarrhoea and neuropathy. Prion diseases and the FAPs both display prominent effects of mutation type on clinical presentation and patterns of pathology-a fascinating but unexplained observation. Several neurodegenerative diseases associated with central protein misfolding, such as Huntington and Parkinson diseases, also have under-recognized peripheral components. Most of the familial amyloidoses can be explained by known gene mutations, but amino acid variants in proteins involved in other central neurodegenerative diseases might direct the initial pathology to the periphery.

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