Marinesco bodies and substantia nigra neuron density in Parkinson's disease

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Marinesco bodies (MB) were first described in 1902 as intranuclear inclusions in the pigmented neurons of the substantia nigra (SN) 1. While rare in childhood, MB frequency can increase four‐fold from the third to the seventh decades of life 1. In contrast, in the presence of Parkinson's disease (PD), MB frequency is reduced, reaching levels similar to that found in early adulthood 3. Low MB frequency in PD is distinct from higher frequencies often found in other movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies 3.
Coinciding with initiation of MB formation in early adulthood, cell death among the pigmented SN neurons begins to occur. Between the ages of 20 and 90 years, more than a third of SN neurons are lost 7. Although cell death continues in the presence of PD, low MB frequency in PD corresponds with a time when neuron density has reached a critical threshold. Some suggest a threshold of near 50% in SN neuron loss is needed before the classic motor signs of PD begin to appear 8.
While cell death in the SN is considered part of PD progression 7, changes in MB frequency at PD onset could be a feature that distinguishes PD from other neurodegenerative disorders. If this is the case, then studies of MB could be important in understanding mechanisms unique to PD. Our objective is to examine the association of MB with SN neuron density in PD in the Honolulu‐Asia Aging Study (HAAS).
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