2010 Jun;9(2):190-7. doi: 10.1007/s12311-009-0138-0.

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Department of Pediatrics, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany.


Ataxia telangiectasia (AT) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by progressive ataxia, neurodegeneration, immunodeficiency, and cancer predisposition. Pathoanatomical studies reported a degeneration of cerebellar Purkinje cells as the striking feature of the disease. Although recent studies suggested the involvement of extracerebellar structures such as the brainstem and basal ganglia, this has rarely been studied in human AT. Thus, we performed a detailed cliniconeuroradiological investigation of 11 AT patients, aged 8 to 26 years by collecting clinical neurological data, ataxia scores, growth status, body mass index (BMI), growth hormone (GH), and insulin-like-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and correlated them to extracerebellar neuroimaging findings in human AT. Neuroimaging was done by cranial and spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with T1- and T2-weighted spin-echo and fluid attenuated inversion recovery sequences. We compared clinical and neuroradiological findings of six patients with IGF-1 levels and BMI below the third percentile to five patients with normal IGF-1 serum levels and BMI above the third percentile. Three of the six first mentioned patients older than 20 years and two patients older than 12 years showed noticeable high Klockgether ataxia scores above 25 points. Three of these patients presented with marked hyperintense lesions in the cerebral white matter of T2-weighted MR images. Interestingly, all six patients suffered from marked spinal atrophy. Two of the patients presented with severe extra-pyramidal symptoms, but only one patient showed associated MRI abnormalities of the basal ganglia. MRI in patients with normal IGF-1 levels showed the expected cerebellar lesions in four patients, whereas spinal atrophy was found only in two patients. There was no affection of the cerebral white matter or basal ganglia in this group. We conclude that central cerebral white matter affection, spinal atrophy, and extrapyramidal symptoms are more often present in patients with pronounced deficiency of the GH/IGF-1 axis accompanied by markedly reduced body weight and high ataxia scores. This may point to a major role of IGF-1 and nutritional status in neuroprotective signaling.

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