Spinal corpora amylacea and motor neuron disease: a quantitative study

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Abstract

Objective

To test the hypothesis that as there is growing evidence that corpora amylacea, or amyloid bodies, in the CNS are derived primarily from neurons, it might be expected that their numbers in the spinal cord would decline with loss of neurons in motor neuron degeneration as they do in the retina on destruction of ganglion cells by glaucoma.

Methods

The numbers of corpora amylacea were counted in PAS stained transverse sections of the lumbar cord from 27 patients with motor neuron disease and 21 control subjects of similar age and sex mix. The numbers and sizes of corpora amylacea were determined both in the anterior horn grey matter and in the submeningeal white matter regions in each case.

Results

In both groups the total numbers in the white matter and submeningeal regions ranged from 160 to more than 5000/section and there was minimal significant difference between the two groups. No relation with age was found in this narrow age range. The mean diameters of the corpora amylacea were significantly less in the grey matter of both groups than in the submeningeal regions. However, their densities in the grey matter of the anterior horn were significantly reduced in the spinal cord sections in the motor neuron disease group, but only where few motor neurons remained.

Conclusions

These findings support the view that corpora amylacea may arise from neurons, and suggest that that there may be two compartments, one mobile and one static, the second most likely remaining in the periphery of the spinal cord for prolonged periods.

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