Degeneration of Cardiac Sympathetic Nerve Begins in the Early Disease Process of Parkinson's Disease


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Abstract

Decreased cardiac uptake of meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) on [123I] MIBG myocardial scintigraphy has been reported in the early stages of Parkinson's disease (PD), which suggests involvement of the cardiac sympathetic nerve in the early disease process of PD. For confirmation, we immunohistochemically examined cardiac tissue, sympathetic ganglia and medulla oblongata of 20 patients with incidental Lewy body disease (ILBD), which is thought to be a presymptomatic stage of PD, and 10 control subjects, using antibodies against tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and neurofilament (NF). Immunoreactive nerve fibers of fascicles in the epicardium were well preserved in 10 of the 20 patients with ILBD and in the control subjects. In contrast, TH-immunoreactive nerve fibers had nearly disappeared in six subjects and were moderately decreased in four of the 20 patients with ILBD. Neuronal cell loss in the dorsal vagal nucleus and the sympathetic ganglia was not detectable in any of the ILBD patients examined. These findings suggest that degeneration of the cardiac sympathetic nerve begins in the early disease process of PD and that it occurs before neuronal cell loss in the dorsal vagal nucleus.

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