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J Neurol Sci. 1996 Aug;139 Suppl:27-33.

Reactive astrogliosis of the spinal cord in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, University of Turin, Italy.


Many observations have been carried out on astrogliosis in the cerebral cortex in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), whereas little attention has been paid to astrogliosis in the spinal cord. Twenty autopsy cases of sporadic, common form of ALS have been studied. Spinal cords have been examined at the cervical, thoracic and lumbar levels by histological methods and immunohistochemistry for GFAP, Vimentin, Tau-protein, Neurofilaments, PCNA. A gliosis was found in the ventral horns, in dorsal horns and at the transition between gray matter and anterior and lateral funiculi, especially close to laminae VII, VI and V as being due to secondary gliosis. The findings cannot be interpreted on the only basis of the substitutive role of reacting glia. The proposed pathogenetic mechanisms of ALS are evaluated as possible responsible stimuli; the coincidence of the distribution of reactive astrocytes with the entering points of the corticospinal tracts into the gray matter is considered of primary importance. Of special interest are reactive astrocytes at the transition between laminae VII, VI and V and the lateral funiculus, where dystrophic neurites are known to concentrate.

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