Publications by authors named "Francesca Andreetta"

42 Publications

Expanding clinical spectrum of Caspr2 antibody-associated disease: warning on brainstem involvement and respiratory failure.

J Neurol Sci 2020 06 28;413:116865. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Epilepsy Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy; Division of Clinical Neurophysiology and Epilepsy Center, IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genova, Italy.

We report the case of a 68-year-old man who presented with ataxia, insomnia, rapidly developing cognitive decline, seizures and small vessel vasculitis. Both serum and cerebro-spinal fluid samples showed positive titre of anti-CASPR2 antibodies. Limbic encephalitis was diagnosed and immunomodulatory therapy was started with benefit. After one-year follow-up, the patient relapsed with a difficult-to-treat respiratory failure, brainstem involvement, neuropathic pain and severe dysautonomia with esophageal dysfunction. We discuss here the occurrence of life-threating complication such as respiratory dysfunction in CASPR2 limbic encephalitis. Furthermore, we showed different phenotype and treatment response during disease onset compared to relapse. This case expands the clinical spectrum of anti-CASPR2 associated disease, underlying the need for respiratory and sleep evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2020.116865DOI Listing
June 2020

Muscle involvement in myasthenia gravis: Expanding the clinical spectrum of Myasthenia-Myositis association from a large cohort of patients.

Autoimmun Rev 2020 Apr 14;19(4):102498. Epub 2020 Feb 14.

Neuromuscular and Rare Disease Center, Department of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sensory Organs (NESMOS), SAPIENZA University, Sant'Andrea Hospital, Rome, Italy.

Myastenia-Inflammatory Myopathy (MG-IM) association has been described in less than 50 cases, as isolated reports or in few case series. In most cases, MG and IM onset occur simultaneously even if the overlapping clinical manifestations could lead to delay the diagnosis in the early stage of disease. In these cases, thymic pathology is present in more than 50% of cases. Pathological findings can be consistent of polymyositis (63%), dermatomyositis (25%) or granulomatosis (12%). Accurate clinical manifestations and severity of IM in MG, including muscle specific antibodies (MSA) and muscle MRI, have not been systematically investigated and focal or mild subclinical myositis have not been reported. We observed that focal myositis or asymptomatic CK elevation can also occur in MG. In this review we have also retrospectively re-analyzed the clinical, serological, pathological and muscle imaging data from 13 patients with MG- IM from our cohort of 441 MG patients (2,9%). Clinical onset occurred simultaneously in 10/13 patients, whereas in 2 patients the IM appeared later in MG disease course (range 10-14 years) and conversely in 1 patient MG symptoms occurred later in IM disease course (4 years). Median age at disease onset was 51 year (range 24-73 years) regardless of clinical onset (MG or IM). Median clinical follow-up was 88 months (range 31-237 months). IM was suspected by CK elevation in all patients (ranging 800-3000 UI/L at first detection) and non-fatigable muscle weakness unresponsive to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. All the patients presented mild to moderate MG symptoms. Three main categories of muscle involvement, sometimes overlapping, were recognizable: distal, proximal and subclinical myositits, leading to three main clinical groups (A,B,C) and two overlapping subgroups (A/B and B/C). Thymus pathology was present in 10/13 patients. Anti-AChR was detected in al all patients associated with anti-Titin and -RyR1 in those patients with thymoma. No MSA, nor MAA antibodies were detected. Muscle biopsy confirmed IM in all patients. In conclusion we redefined the clinical spectrum of muscle involvement in MG-IM association, which represent a continuum among 3 main clinical groups: distal, proximal and subclinical muscle involvement. Minimal muscle involvement and focal myositis could be underestimated among myasthenic patients and early aggressive immunotherapy could be required in focal group.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102498DOI Listing
April 2020

Autoantibody Diagnostics in Neuroimmunology: Experience From the 2018 Italian Neuroimmunology Association External Quality Assessment Program.

Front Neurol 2019 14;10:1385. Epub 2020 Jan 14.

Neuroimmunology Laboratory, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, Pavia, Italy.

Neuroimmunology has impressively expanded in the past decade. Novel assays, especially cell-based assays (CBAs) can detect conformational antibodies (Abs) recognizing antigens in their native conformation. Generally, the availability of in-house and of commercial tests has improved the diagnostics, but introduced demanding laboratory tasks. Hence, standardization and quality controls represent a key step to promote accuracy. We report on the results of the 2018 external quality assessment program (EQAP) organized by the Italian Neuroimmunology Association. EQAP regarded 10 schemes, including oligoclonal bands (OCBs), intracellular-neuronal (ICN)-Abs, neuronal-surface (NS)-Abs, aquaporin-4 (AQP4)-Abs, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-Abs, myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG)-Abs, ganglioside-Abs, acetylcholine-receptor (AChR)-Abs, and muscle-specific-kinase (MuSK)-Abs, and 34 laboratories. Assays were classified as tissue-based assays (TBAs), solid-phase assays (SPAs), liquid-phase assays (LPAs), and CBAs. Thirty-three samples were provided. Three-quarter of the tests were commercial. Median accuracy for the laboratories was 75% (range 50-100). In 8/10 schemes, at least one sample provided discrepant results. Inter-laboratory "substantial agreement" was found in 6/10 schemes (AChR, MuSK, MAG, AQP4, MOG, and NS-Abs), whereas the worst agreements regarded OCBs and ganglioside-Abs. Both commercial and in-house assays performed better in experienced laboratories. Assays could be divided in (a) robust commercial tests with substantial inter-laboratory agreement (MAG-Abs; AChR- and MuSK-Abs); commercial/"in-house" tests with (b) partial inter-laboratory agreement (AQP4-Abs, MOG-Abs, NS-Abs, ICN-Abs), and (c) with large inter-laboratory disagreement (OCBs, ganglioside-Abs). This real-life snapshot of the neuroimmunology test performances highlights shortcomings attributable to technician-dependent performances, assay structural limitations, and errors in test interpretations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.01385DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6971200PMC
January 2020

Circulating MyomiRs as Potential Biomarkers to Monitor Response to Nusinersen in Pediatric SMA Patients.

Biomedicines 2020 Jan 26;8(2). Epub 2020 Jan 26.

Neurology IV-Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Via Celoria 11, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in survival motor neuron (SMN) 1 gene, resulting in a truncated SMN protein responsible for degeneration of brain stem and spinal motor neurons. The paralogous SMN2 gene partially compensates full-length SMN protein production, mitigating the phenotype. Antisense oligonucleotide nusinersen (Spinraza) enhances SMN2 gene expression. SMN is involved in RNA metabolism and biogenesis of microRNA (miRNA), key gene expression modulators, whose dysregulation contributes to neuromuscular diseases. They are stable in body fluids and may reflect distinct pathophysiological states, thus acting as promising biomarkers. Muscle-specific miRNAs (myomiRs) as biomarkers for clinical use in SMA have not been investigated yet. Here, we analyzed the expression of miR-133a, -133b, -206 and -1, in serum of 21 infantile SMA patients at baseline and after 6 months of nusinersen treatment, and correlated molecular data with response to therapy evaluated by the Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale Expanded (HFMSE). Our results demonstrate that myomiR serological levels decrease over disease course upon nusinersen treatment. Notably, miR-133a reduction predicted patients' response to therapy. Our findings identify myomiRs as potential biomarkers to monitor disease progression and therapeutic response in SMA patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines8020021DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7168147PMC
January 2020

Plasma vitronectin is reduced in patients with myasthenia gravis: Diagnostic and pathophysiological potential.

J Circ Biomark 2019 Jan-Dec;8:1849454419875912. Epub 2019 Sep 11.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sassari, Viale San Pietro, Sassari, Italy.

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease leading to varying degrees of skeletal muscle weakness. It is caused by specific antibodies directed against definite components in the postsynaptic membrane at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), such as the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) and the muscle-specific kinase (MUSK) receptor. In clinical practice, MG patients may be classified into three main subgroups based on the occurrence of serum autoantibodies directed against AChR or MUSK receptor or antibody-negative. As the MG subgroups differ in terms of clinical characteristics, disease pathogenesis, prognosis, and response to therapies, they could benefit from targeted treatment as well as the detection of other possible disease biomarkers. We performed proteomics on plasma fractions enriched in low-abundance proteins to identify potential biomarkers according to different autoimmune responses. By this approach, we evidenced a significant reduction of vitronectin in MG patients compared to healthy controls, irrespective of the autoantibodies NMJ target. The obtained results were validated by mono- and two-dimensional Western blotting analysis. Vitronectin is a multifunctional glycoprotein involved in the regulation of several pathophysiological processes, including complement-dependent immune response, coagulation, fibrinolysis, pericellular proteolysis, cell attachment, and spreading. The pathophysiological significance of the reduction of plasma vitronectin in MG patients has yet to be fully elucidated. It could be related either to a possible deposition of vitronectin at NMJ to counteract the complement-mediated muscle damage at this level or to a parallel variation of this glycoprotein in the muscle extracellular matrix with secondary induced alteration in clustering of AChRs at NMJ, as it occurs with variation in concentrations of agrin, another extracellular matrix component. The clinical value of measuring plasma vitronectin has yet to be defined. According to present findings, significantly lower plasma values of this glycoprotein might be indicative of an impaired complement-dependent immune response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1849454419875912DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6740073PMC
September 2019

Predictive value of high titer of GAD65 antibodies in a case of limbic encephalitis.

J Neuroimmunol 2019 12 10;337:577063. Epub 2019 Sep 10.

Epilepsy Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy; Division of Clinical Neurophysiology, Policlinico IRCCS San Martino, Genova, Italy. Electronic address:

We report the case of a 42-year-old woman who presented with vertigo and migraine and rapidly developed cognitive decline and seizures. Both serum and cerebro-spinal fluid samples showed high titer of anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (anti-GAD65) antibodies (998,881 IU/ml and 54,687 IU/ml respectively). Limbic encephalitis was diagnosed and high dose steroids treatment started. During one-year follow-up, without further immunomodulatory therapy, the patient became seizure free, and cognitive functions returned to normal. Serum anti-GAD65 antibodies titer decreased significantly but remained elevated (192,680 IU/ml). We discuss the prognostic and pathogenic value of high titer anti-GAD65 antibodies and its variations in a case of autoimmune limbic encephalitis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroim.2019.577063DOI Listing
December 2019

Amifampridine phosphate in the treatment of muscle-specific kinase myasthenia gravis: a phase IIb, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, double crossover study.

SAGE Open Med 2018 17;6:2050312118819013. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

Department of Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases, Fondazione I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta (INCB), Milan, Italy.

Objective: The aim of this study is to determine the safety and the efficacy of amifampridine phosphate in muscle-specific kinase antibody-positive myasthenia gravis, in a 1:1 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, switchback, double crossover study.

Methods: Eligible patients had muscle-specific kinase myasthenia gravis, >18 years of age, and Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America class II-IV with a score of ⩾9 on Myasthenia Gravis Composite scale. After the run-in phase, during which amifampridine phosphate was titrated to a tolerable and effective dosage, patients were randomized to receive placebo-amifampridine-placebo sequence or amifampridine-placebo-amifampridine sequence daily for 7 days. Then, patients switched treatment arms twice, for a total of 21 days of double-blind treatment. Safety was determined by serial assessments of adverse events/serious adverse events, physical examinations, and clinical and laboratory tests. The co-primary outcome measures included changes from baseline of Quantitative Myasthenia Gravis score and Myasthenia Gravis-specific Activities of Daily Living Profile score. The secondary outcome measures comprised changes from baseline of Myasthenia Gravis Composite score, Myasthenia Gravis Quality of Life scale-15 questions, Fatigue Severity Scale, and Carlo Besta Neurological Institute-Myasthenia Gravis scale. Statistical analyses were assessed using a switchback model for three-period, two-treatment crossover design.

Results: A total of 10 patients were screened, enrolled, and treated. Transient paresthesias (60%) were the only amifampridine phosphate-related adverse events reported. Four patients were randomized to receive placebo-amifampridine-placebo sequence and three patients to receive amifampridine-placebo-amifampridine sequence. The co-primary objectives were statistically met (Quantitative Myasthenia Gravis score: p = 0.0003 and Myasthenia Gravis-specific Activities of Daily Living Profile score: p = 0.0006), as well as all the secondary endpoints (Myasthenia Gravis Composite score: p < 0.0001, Myasthenia Gravis Quality of Life scale-15 questions: p = 0.0025, Fatigue Severity Scale: p = 0.0061, and Carlo Besta Neurological Institute-Myasthenia Gravis scale: p = 0.0014).

Conclusion: Despite the low number of patients, MuSK-001 study provided evidence that amifampridine phosphate, in the range of 30-60 mg daily dose, was safe and effective in treating muscle-specific kinase myasthenia gravis, suggesting the need for a large multi-center trial to confirm these results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2050312118819013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6299310PMC
December 2018

Pediatric NMDAR encephalitis: A single center observation study with a closer look at movement disorders.

Eur J Paediatr Neurol 2018 Mar 1;22(2):301-307. Epub 2018 Feb 1.

Department of Pediatric Neuroscience, Foundation IRCCS Neurological Institute "C. Besta", Milan, Italy.

Anti-N-Methyl-d-aspartate-receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis is the most frequent autoimmune encephalitis in pediatric age. This retrospective observational study was aimed at describing the clinical characteristics of the disease in a cohort of children and teenagers. Eighteen patients (10 females and 8 males), with a median age of 12.4 years at symptom onset were enrolled. The clinical presentation of the disease was marked by neurological manifestations in 13 patients and by severe psychiatric and behavioral symptoms in 5. The symptoms at onset varied according to the age: all the children presented with prominent neurological symptoms, whereas psychiatric symptoms were prominent in teenagers. Regardless the age, movement disorders (MDs) were distinctive symptoms during the acute stage of the disease. Several MDs might coexist in a given patient, and persist during sleep. The complexity, and the oddness of MDs often challenged their definition and the differential diagnosis with psychiatric manifestations and epileptic seizures. Stereotyped motor phenomena were the most typical MDs, and were recorded in all patients. Among them, perseveration, reproduction of acquired complex motor activities, and orofacial dyskinesia were the most distinctive features. In children, hyperkinetic MDs dominate; in teenagers, by contrast, a constellation of symptoms consistent with catatonia was the most frequent syndrome observed. The management of the several symptoms requires their accurate recognition, definition and assessment, and the knowledge of the potential side effects of antiepileptic and psychotropic drugs which could either mimic or worsen symptoms of encephalitis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpn.2018.01.012DOI Listing
March 2018

Diagnostics of anti-MAG antibody polyneuropathy.

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):249-252

Humanitas Clinical Institute, Milan University, Milan, Italy.

This document presents the guidelines for anti-myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) antibody testing that have been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts, and discussions at workshops of sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI) congresses. The main clinical information on anti-MAG antibody polyneuropathy, indications and limits of anti-MAG antibody testing, instructions for result interpretation, and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3024-4DOI Listing
October 2017

Diagnostics of myasthenic syndromes: detection of anti-AChR and anti-MuSK antibodies.

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):253-257

UO Neurologia IV, Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy.

This paper presents the Italian guidelines for autoantibody testing in myasthenia gravis that have been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts and discussions during dedicated workshops of the sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI). Essential clinical information on myasthenic syndromes, indications and limits of antibody testing, instructions for result interpretation and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3026-2DOI Listing
October 2017

Diagnostics of dysimmune peripheral neuropathies.

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):243-247

Humanitas Clinical Institute, Milan University, Milan, Italy.

This document presents the guidelines for anti-ganglioside antibody testing that have been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts, and discussions at workshops of the sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI) congresses. Main clinical information on dysimmune peripheral neuropathies, indications and limits of anti-ganglioside antibody testing, instructions for result interpretation, and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3025-3DOI Listing
October 2017

Diagnostics of the neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD).

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):231-236

AUO S. Luigi, Orbassano, Italy.

This document presents the guidelines for anti-aquaporin-4 (AQP4) antibody testing that has been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts, and discussions at workshops of the sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI) congresses. Essential clinical information on neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, indications and limits of anti-AQP4 antibody testing, instructions for result interpretation, and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3027-1DOI Listing
October 2017

Diagnostics of autoimmune encephalitis associated with antibodies against neuronal surface antigens.

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):225-229

Ospedale S.Antonio AULSS Euganea, Padua, Italy.

This document presents the guidelines for testing antibodies against neuronal surface antigens that have been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts, and discussions at workshops of the sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI) congresses. Essential clinical information on autoimmune encephalitis associated with antibodies against neuronal surface antigens, indications and limits of testing for such antibodies, instructions for result interpretation, and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix A) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3032-4DOI Listing
October 2017

Long-term cardiovascular autonomic and clinical changes after immunoglobulin G immunoadsorption therapy in autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy.

J Hypertens 2017 07;35(7):1513-1520

aInternal Medicine 4, Humanitas Clinical and Research Center, Milano bNeuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases Unit, I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Neurologico 'C. Besta' cI.R.C.C.S Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri dHumanitas University, Rozzano, Milan, Italy.

: A 63-year-old male was diagnosed with autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy based on the finding of plasma antibodies to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) of autonomic ganglia. He complained of mouth and eye dryness, dysphagia, severe constipation, erectile dysfunction, urgency, frequent urination, habitual orthostatic syncope and presyncope. A remarkable symptomatic orthostatic hypotension without changes in heart rate was present. We here describe the 3-year time course of the changes in spectral indices of cardiovascular autonomic control LF/HF and LFSAP, dysautonomia symptoms intensity and anti-nAChR antibodies following repetitive selective immunoadsorptions. During the follow-up, the reduction of anti-nAChR antibodies produced by immunoadsorption was associated with a diminished orthostatic hypotension, a restored capability to increase LF/HF, LFSAP and norepinephrine in upright position, a decline in the intensity of autonomic symptoms and an improvement of life quality. Spectral parameters LF/HF and LFSAP may represent noninvasive, low-cost biomarkers suitable for autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy patients' clinical follow-up.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000001355DOI Listing
July 2017

Identification of a gene expression signature in peripheral blood of multiple sclerosis patients treated with disease-modifying therapies.

Clin Immunol 2016 Dec 5;173:133-146. Epub 2016 Oct 5.

Neurology IV - Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases Unit, Neurological Institute "Carlo Besta", Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease with neurodegenerative alterations, ultimately progressing to neurological handicap. Therapies are effective in counteracting inflammation but not neurodegeneration. Biomarkers predicting disease course or treatment response are lacking. We investigated whether altered gene and protein expression profiles were detectable in the peripheral blood of 78 relapsing remitting MS (RR-MS) patients treated by disease-modifying therapies. A discovery/validation study on RR-MS responsive to glatiramer acetate identified 8 differentially expressed genes: ITGA2B, ITGB3, CD177, IGJ, IL5RA, MMP8, P2RY12, and S100β. A longitudinal study on glatiramer acetate, Interferon-β, or Fingolimod treated RR-MS patients confirmed that 7 out of 8 genes were downregulated with reference to the different therapies, whereas S100β was always upregulated. Thus, we identified a peripheral gene signature associated with positive response in RR-MS which may also explain drug immunomodulatory effects. The usefulness of this signature as a biomarker needs confirmation on larger series of patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clim.2016.10.002DOI Listing
December 2016

Neuropsychological and FDG-PET profiles in VGKC autoimmune limbic encephalitis.

Brain Cogn 2016 10;108:81-7

Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy; Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy; Nuclear Medicine Unit, San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy.

Background: Limbic encephalitis (LE) is characterized by an acute or subacute onset with memory impairments, confusional state, behavioral disorders, variably associated with seizures and dystonic movements. It is due to inflammatory processes that selectively affect the medial temporal lobe structures. Voltage-gate potassium channel (VGKC) autoantibodies are frequently observed. In this study, we assessed at the individual level FDG-PET brain metabolic dysfunctions and neuropsychological profiles in three autoimmune LE cases seropositive for neuronal VGKC-complex autoantibodies.

Materials And Methods: LGI1 and CASPR2 potassium channel complex autoantibody subtyping was performed. Cognitive abilities were evaluated with an in-depth neuropsychological battery focused on episodic memory and affective recognition/processing skills. FDG-PET data were analyzed at single-subject level according to a standardized and validated voxel-based Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) method.

Results: Patients showed severe episodic memory and fear recognition deficits at the neuropsychological assessment. No disorder of mentalizing processing was present. Variable patterns of increases and decreases of brain glucose metabolism emerged in the limbic structures, highlighting the pathology-driven selective vulnerability of this system. Additional involvement of cortical and subcortical regions, particularly in the sensorimotor system and basal ganglia, was found.

Conclusions: Episodic memory and fear recognition deficits characterize the cognitive profile of LE. Commonalities and differences may occur in the brain metabolic patterns. Single-subject voxel-based analysis of FDG-PET imaging could be useful in the early detection of the metabolic correlates of cognitive and non-cognitive deficits characterizing LE condition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.010DOI Listing
October 2016

A novel infection- and inflammation-associated molecular signature in peripheral blood of myasthenia gravis patients.

Immunobiology 2016 11 15;221(11):1227-36. Epub 2016 Jun 15.

Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Biopolis, 138648 Singapore. Electronic address:

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a T-cell dependent autoimmune disorder of the neuromuscular junction, characterised by muscle weakness and fatigability. Autoimmunity is thought to initiate in the thymus of acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-positive MG patients; however, the molecular mechanisms linking intra-thymic MG pathogenesis with autoreactivity via the circulation to the muscle target organ are poorly understood. Using whole-transcriptome sequencing, we compared the transcriptional profile of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from AChR-early onset MG (AChR-EOMG) patients with healthy controls: 178 coding transcripts and 229 long non-coding RNAs, including 11 pre-miRNAs, were differentially expressed. Among the 178 coding transcripts, 128 were annotated of which 17% were associated with the 'infectious disease' functional category and 46% with 'inflammatory disease' and 'inflammatory response-associated' categories. Validation of selected transcripts by qPCR indicated that of the infectious disease-related transcripts, ETF1, NFKB2, PLK3, and PPP1R15A were upregulated, whereas CLC and IL4 were downregulated in AChR-EOMG patients; in the 'inflammatory' categories, ABCA1, FUS, and RELB were upregulated, suggesting a contribution of these molecules to immunological dysfunctions in MG. Data selection and validation were also based on predicted microRNA-mRNA interactions. We found that miR-612, miR-3654, and miR-3651 were increased, whereas miR-612-putative AKAp12 and HRH4 targets and the miR-3651-putative CRISP3 target were downregulated in AChR-EOMG, also suggesting altered immunoregulation. Our findings reveal a novel peripheral molecular signature in AChR-EOMG, reflecting a critical involvement of inflammatory- and infectious disease-related immune responses in disease pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.imbio.2016.06.012DOI Listing
November 2016

Cognitive and neuropsychological evolution in children with anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

J Neurol 2016 Apr 17;263(4):765-71. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Department of Pediatric Neuroscience, Foundation IRCCS Neurological Institute "C. Besta", Via Celoria 11, 20133, Milan, Italy.

We describe neurological and cognitive/neuropsychological changes from symptom onset in 13 consecutive children (8 females and 5 males; median age 11 years, range 3-17) with anti-NMDAR-encephalitis. We assessed neurological status using the modified Rankin Scale for children and cognitive/neuropsychological status using a standardized battery that was administered serially in 10 prospective patients, and at latest follow-up in three retrospective patients diagnosed before study initiation. Symptom onset was marked by neurological or psychiatric/behavioural manifestations, which became severe but regressed at variable rates after starting immunotherapy. The 10 prospective patients were able to undergo first standardized cognitive/neuropsychological assessment a median of 3 months (range 1-12) after symptom onset: they had extensive deficits, although severity varied. Subsequent assessment showed marked improvements although the timescale varied. At latest evaluation (median 31 months, range 3-112, after symptom onset), seven patients had no neurological disability, five had improved substantially, and one had persistent behavioural problems. Latest cognitive/neuropsychological assessment in 11 patients with at least a year of follow-up showed normal general intellectual abilities, but over half had residual deficits indicating frontal lobe dysfunction. All patients had resumed normal activities. Our findings suggest that early installation of immunotherapy results in good long-term recovery in most paediatric patients with anti-NMDAR-encephalitis, however, recovery is incomplete and the disease leaves subtle lasting defects that impact quality of life, social relationships, and academic achievement.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-016-8056-9DOI Listing
April 2016

Increased expression of Toll-like receptors 7 and 9 in myasthenia gravis thymus characterized by active Epstein-Barr virus infection.

Immunobiology 2016 Apr 12;221(4):516-27. Epub 2015 Dec 12.

Neurology IV-Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases Unit, Fondazione Istituto Neurologico "Carlo Besta", Via Celoria 11, 20133 Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Considerable data implicate the thymus as the main site of autosensitization to the acetylcholine receptor in myasthenia gravis (MG), a B-cell-mediated autoimmune disease affecting the neuromuscular junction. We recently demonstrated an active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection in the thymus of MG patients, suggesting that EBV might contribute to the onset or maintenance of the autoimmune response within MG thymus, because of its ability to activate and immortalize autoreactive B cells. EBV has been reported to elicit and modulate Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7- and TLR9-mediated innate immune responses, which are known to favor B-cell dysfunction and autoimmunity. Aim of this study was to investigate whether EBV infection is associated with altered expression of TLR7 and TLR9 in MG thymus. By real-time PCR, we found that TLR7 and TLR9 mRNA levels were significantly higher in EBV-positive MG compared to EBV-negative normal thymuses. By confocal microscopy, high expression levels of TLR7 and TLR9 proteins were observed in B cells and plasma cells of MG thymic germinal centers (GCs) and lymphoid infiltrates, where the two receptors co-localized with EBV antigens. An increased frequency of Ki67-positive proliferating B cells was found in MG thymuses, where we also detected proliferating cells expressing TLR7, TLR9 and EBV antigens, thus supporting the idea that EBV-associated TLR7/9 signaling may promote abnormal B-cell activation and proliferation. Along with B cells and plasma cells, thymic epithelium, plasmacytoid dendritic cells and macrophages exhibited enhanced TLR7 and TLR9 expression in MG thymus; TLR7 was also increased in thymic myeloid dendritic cells and its transcriptional levels positively correlated with those of interferon (IFN)-β. We suggested that TLR7/9 signaling may be involved in antiviral type I IFN production and long-term inflammation in EBV-infected MG thymuses. Our overall findings indicate that EBV-driven TLR7- and TLR9-mediated innate immune responses may participate in the intra-thymic pathogenesis of MG.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.imbio.2015.12.007DOI Listing
April 2016

Focal seizure, focal dyskinesia, or both? A complex motor phenomenon reveals anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

Seizure 2015 Apr 14;27:16-8. Epub 2015 Feb 14.

Department of Pediatric Neuroscience, Foundation I.R.C.C.S. Neurological Institute C. Besta, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.seizure.2015.02.005DOI Listing
April 2015

LRP4 antibodies in serum and CSF from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2014 Feb 30;1(2):80-7. Epub 2013 Dec 30.

Hellenic Pasteur Institute Athens, Greece ; Neurology Department, Aeginition Hospital, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University Athens, Greece.

Objective: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and myasthenia gravis (MG) are caused, respectively, by motor neuron degeneration and neuromuscular junction (NMJ) dysfunction. The membrane protein LRP4 is crucial in the development and function of motor neurons and NMJs and LRP4 autoantibodies have been recently detected in some MG patients. Because of the critical role in motor neuron function we searched for LRP4 antibodies in ALS patients.

Methods: We developed a cell-based assay and a radioimmunoassay and with these we studied the sera from 104 ALS patients.

Results: LRP4 autoantibodies were detected in sera from 24/104 (23.4%) ALS patients from Greece (12/51) and Italy (12/53), but only in 5/138 (3.6%) sera from patients with other neurological diseases and 0/40 sera from healthy controls. The presence of LRP4 autoantibodies in five of six tested patients was persistent for at least 10 months. Cerebrospinal fluid samples from six of seven tested LRP4 antibody-seropositive ALS patients were also positive. No autoantibodies to other MG autoantigens (AChR and MuSK) were detected in ALS patients. No differences in clinical pattern were seen between ALS patients with or without LRP4 antibodies.

Conclusions: We infer that LRP4 autoantibodies are involved in patients with neurological manifestations affecting LRP4-containing tissues and are found more frequently in ALS patients than MG patients. LRP4 antibodies may have a direct pathogenic activity in ALS by participating in the denervation process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.26DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4212481PMC
February 2014

Fibrosis and inflammation are greater in muscles of beta-sarcoglycan-null mouse than mdx mouse.

Cell Tissue Res 2014 May 11;356(2):427-43. Epub 2014 Apr 11.

Neuromuscular Diseases and Neuroimmunology Unit, Foundation IRCCS Neurological Institute C. Besta, Milano, Italy.

The Sgcb-null mouse, with knocked-down β-sarcoglycan, develops severe muscular dystrophy as in type 2E human limb girdle muscular dystrophy. The mdx mouse, lacking dystrophin, is the most used model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Unlike DMD, the mdx mouse has mild clinical features and shows little fibrosis in limb muscles. To characterize ECM protein deposition and the progression of muscle fibrosis, we evaluated protein and transcript levels of collagens I, III and VI, decorin, and TGF-β1, in quadriceps and diaphragm, at 2, 4, 8, 12, 26, and 52 weeks in Sgcb-null mice, and protein levels at 12, 26, and 52 weeks in mdx mice. In Sgcb-null mice, severe morphological disruption was present from 4 weeks in both quadriceps and diaphragm, and included conspicuous deposition of extracellular matrix components. Histopathological features of Sgcb-null mouse muscles were similar to those of age-matched mdx muscles at all ages examined, but, in the Sgcb-null mouse, the extent of connective tissue deposition was generally greater than mdx. Furthermore, in the Sgcb-null mouse, the amount of all three collagen isoforms increased steadily, while, in the mdx, they remained stable. We also found that, at 12 weeks, macrophages were significantly more numerous in mildly inflamed areas of Sgcb-null quadriceps compared to mdx quadriceps (but not in highly inflamed regions), while, in the diaphragm, macrophages did not differ significantly between the two models, in either region. Osteopontin mRNA was also significantly greater at 12 weeks in laser-dissected highly inflamed areas of the Sgcb-null quadriceps compared to the mdx quadriceps. TGF-β1 was present in areas of degeneration-regeneration, but levels were highly variable and in general did not differ significantly between the two models and controls. The roles of the various subtypes of macrophages in muscle repair and fibrosis in the two models require further study. The Sgcb-null mouse, which develops early fibrosis in limb muscles, appears more promising than the mdx mouse for probing pathogenetic mechanisms of muscle fibrosis and for developing anti-fibrotic treatments. Highlights • The Sgcb-null mouse develops severe muscular dystrophy, the mdx mouse does not. • Fibrosis developed earlier in Sgcb-null quadriceps and diaphragm than mdx. • Macrophages were commoner in mildly inflamed parts of Sgcb-null quadriceps than mdx. • The Sgcb-null model appears more useful than mdx for studying fibrotic mechanisms. • The Sgcb-null model also appears more useful for developing anti-fibrotic treatments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00441-014-1854-4DOI Listing
May 2014

Non-paraneoplastic voltage-gated calcium channels antibody-mediated cerebellar ataxia responsive to IVIG treatment.

J Neurol Sci 2014 Jan 29;336(1-2):169-70. Epub 2013 Oct 29.

Department of Neurology, "Alessandro Manzoni" General Hospital, Via Dell'Eremo 9/11, 23900 Lecco, Italy.

Non-paraneoplastic cerebellar ataxia associated with voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) antibodies is a rare entity with only few cases reported in literature. We describe a 60 year-old man with subacute cerebellar ataxia and subclinical Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) in whom VGCC antibodies were detected at high titer in serum and cerebrospinal fluid. Screening for underlying malignancies was negative. Intravenous immunoglobulin treatment led to the improvement of clinical picture and reduction of serum antibody titer over a 13-month follow-up period. We emphasize that VGCC antibodies should be included in the diagnostic work-up of patients with subacute cerebellar ataxia and that treatment with IVIG can improve the clinical picture and prevent disability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2013.10.031DOI Listing
January 2014

Miller Fisher syndrome with positivity of anti-GAD antibodies.

Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2013 Nov 16;115(11):2399-400. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Department of Neurosciences, Neurology Unit, University of Parma, Parma, Italy. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clineuro.2013.09.002DOI Listing
November 2013

Complete stable remission and autoantibody specificity in myasthenia gravis.

Neurology 2013 Jan 19;80(2):188-95. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

Neurology IV, Neurological Institute Foundation Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy.

Objectives: Patients with myasthenia gravis (MG) are subgrouped as acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-positive, muscle-specific kinase (MuSK)-positive, and AChR/MuSK-negative MG (or double negative [DN]) on the basis of autoantibody assay. We investigated the relationships between autoantibody specificity, main clinical features, and outcome of the disease, in particular the occurrence of complete stable remission (CSR), by means of a retrospective study on a cohort of 677 Italian patients with MG.

Methods: A total of 517 (76%) patients with AChR-positive MG, 55 (8%) patients with MuSK-positive MG, and 105 (16%) patients with DN MG were included in the study. Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazard regression analyses were used to evaluate associations between baseline characteristics, antibody specificity, and CSR.

Results: Clinical stage at onset and at maximal worsening was more severe for MuSK-positive patients: bulbar impairment at maximal worsening was found in 83.6% of MuSK-positive patients compared with 58.6% of AChR-positive patients and 43.8% of DN patients (p < 0.001). Baseline characteristics of AChR-positive and DN patients were similar. CSR was observed in 3.6% of MuSK-positive patients compared with 22.2% of AChR-positive and 21.9% of DN patients. In the whole MG cohort, onset before age 40 (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.96, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27-3.02, p = 0.002) and ocular and generalized clinical stages at maximal worsening were associated with CSR (ocular, HR = 8.05, 95% CI 1.88-34.53, p = 0.005; generalized, HR = 3.71, 95% CI 1.16-11.90, p = 0.023; bulbar, HR = 3.16, 95% CI 1.00-10.05, p = 0.051).

Conclusions: MuSK antibodies identify a clinically distinguishable, more severe form of MG since the disease onset, with a lower occurrence of CSR. These features should be considered by the clinician in the management of this particular form of MG.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e31827b907bDOI Listing
January 2013

Miller Fisher syndrome with positivity of anti-GAD antibodies.

Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2013 Aug 17;115(8):1479-81. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

Department of Neurosciences, Neurology Unit, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clineuro.2012.11.008DOI Listing
August 2013

Immunological reactivity against neuronal and non-neuronal antigens in sporadic adult-onset cerebellar ataxia.

Eur Neurol 2009 26;62(6):356-61. Epub 2009 Sep 26.

SOD Genetica delle Malattie Neurodegenerative e Metaboliche, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milano, Italia.

In recent years, the involvement of the immune system in acquired forms of cerebellar ataxia has been frequently demonstrated. In this study, we describe 6 out of 49 patients with subacute or chronic progressive cerebellar ataxia in whom antibodies against neuronal and non-neuronal antigens were identified. Two women had anti-Yo antibodies; two patients had anti-gliadin antibodies in the presence of celiac disease; one patient had a complex autoimmune disorder associated with anti-Ro-52/SS-A and anti-muscle-specific kinase antibodies, and a patient developed subacute cerebellar syndrome associated with the presence of a prostatic adenocarcinoma and atypical antibodies reacting both with cerebellar tissue and with the prostatic tumor. Our study confirms previous findings in paraneoplastic syndromes, and indicates that at least 10% of sporadic cerebellar ataxia may be related to immune-mediated mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000242010DOI Listing
January 2010

Successful treatment of acute autoimmune limbic encephalitis with negative VGKC and NMDAR antibodies.

Cogn Behav Neurol 2009 Mar;22(1):63-6

Department of Neuroscience, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy.

Objective: To describe a case of acute nonherpetic limbic encephalitis (LE) with negative testing for antibodies directed against onconeuronal and cell membrane antigens, including voltage-gated potassium channels and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, that showed a dramatic response to immune therapy.

Materials And Methods: A 30-year-old woman manifested generalized seizures, altered consciousness, and memory impairment shortly after a prodromal viral illness. Few days later the patient developed a drug-resistant epileptic status.

Results: Electroencephalograph showed bitemporal slowing and paroxysmal slow wave bursts. Brain magnetic resonance imaging showed bilateral swelling in the medial temporal lobes. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis ruled out viral etiologies. A diagnostic search for cancer, including serum testing for known onconeuronal antibodies proved negative. Screening for cell membrane antigen antibodies, including voltage-gated potassium channels and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, was also negative. Suspecting an autoimmune etiology, we started an immunomodulatory treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin followed by a short course of oral prednisone, obtaining a full clinical recovery.

Conclusions: Our report confirms previous observations of "seronegative" autoimmune LE, suggesting the presence of other, still unknown central nervous system antigens representing a target of a postinfectious, autoimmune response in these patients. Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of early recognition and treatment of acute autoimmune LE, to reduce the risk of intensive care unit-related complications and the occurrence of permanent cognitive or behavioral defects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/WNN.0b013e318190d195DOI Listing
March 2009

Multiple pathological events in exercised dystrophic mdx mice are targeted by pentoxifylline: outcome of a large array of in vivo and ex vivo tests.

J Appl Physiol (1985) 2009 Apr 8;106(4):1311-24. Epub 2009 Jan 8.

Unit of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmaco-biology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.

The phosphodiesterases inhibitor pentoxifylline gained attention for Duchenne muscular dystrophy therapy for its claimed anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifibrotic action. A recent finding also showed that pentoxifylline counteracts the abnormal overactivity of a voltage-independent calcium channel in myofibers of dystrophic mdx mice. The possible link between workload, altered calcium homeostasis, and oxidative stress pushed toward a more detailed investigation. Thus a 4- to 8-wk treatment with pentoxifylline (50 mg x kg(-1) x day(-1) ip) was performed in mdx mice, undergoing or not a chronic exercise on treadmill. In vivo, the treatment partially increased forelimb strength and enhanced resistance to treadmill running in exercised animals. Ex vivo, pentoxifylline restored the mechanical threshold, an electrophysiological index of calcium homeostasis, and reduced resting cytosolic calcium in extensor digitorum longus muscle fibers. Mn quenching and patch-clamp technique confirmed that this effect was paralleled by a drug-induced reduction of membrane permeability to calcium. The treatment also significantly enhanced isometric tetanic tension in mdx diaphragm. The plasma levels of creatine kinase and reactive oxygen species were both significantly reduced in treated-exercised animals. Dihydroethidium staining, used as an indicator of reactive oxygen species production, showed that pentoxifylline significantly reduced the exercise-induced increase in fluorescence in the mdx tibialis anterior muscle. A significant decrease in connective tissue area and profibrotic cytokine transforming growth factor-beta(1) was solely found in tibialis anterior muscle. In both diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscle, a significant increase in neural cell adhesion molecule-positive area was instead observed. This data supports the interest toward pentoxifylline and allows insight in the level of cross talk between pathogenetic events in workloaded dystrophic muscle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.90985.2008DOI Listing
April 2009

Immunotherapy responsive startle with antibodies to voltage gated potassium channels.

BMJ Case Rep 2009 2;2009. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Myopathology and Immunology Unit, Neurological Institute Foundation "C Besta", Milan, Italy.

Antibodies to potassium channels (VGKC-Ab) were first associated with acquired neuromyotonia and its variant with CNS involvement, Morvan's syndrome. Recently, VGKC-Ab were found in patients with non-paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis (LE), characterised by personality changes, seizures and memory impairment. These patients may respond to immunotherapies. Thus the association of VGKC-Ab and non-paraneoplastic LE established the concept of a potentially reversible autoimmune encephalopathy. We describe a patient with startle syndrome and VGKC-Ab, without neuromyotonia or LE, who responded dramatically to plasma exchange (PE) and immunosuppression, adding to the spectrum of disorders associated with VGKC-Ab.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bcr.09.2008.0988DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3027690PMC
November 2011