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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1996 Aug;55(8):915-23.

Localization and expression of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) in postmortem sciatic nerve from patients with motor neuron disease and diabetic neuropathy.

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Department of Psychiatry and Neurology SL23, Tulane University Medical Center, New Orleans, LA 70112-2699, USA.


Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) is thought to play an important role in the maintenance of the mature motor system. The factor is found most abundantly in myelinating Schwann cells in the adult sciatic nerve. Lack of neuronal growth factors has been proposed as one possible etiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Growth factor replacement therapies are currently being evaluated as a treatment for motor neuron disease. In this report we determined whether the expression of CNTF in sciatic nerve differed in patients with motor neuron disease compared to controls or patients with another form of axonopathy. We identified 8 patients (7 with ALS and 1 with SMA) with motor neuron disease and 6 patients with diabetic motor neuropathy who had autopsy material available. Immunoperoxidase staining showed reduced CNTF expression in nerves of patients with motor neuron disease but not in patients with diabetic motor neuropathy. Decreased CNTF appears be associated with primary motor neuron disease rather than a generalized process of axon loss. This result supports suggestions that CNTF deficiency may be an important factor in the development of motor neuron disease.

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