Neurodegenerative diseases are characterised by selective dysfunction and progressive loss of synapses and neurons associated with pathologically altered proteins that deposit primarily in the human brain and spinal cord. Recent discoveries have identified a spectrum of distinct immunohistochemically and biochemically detectable proteins, which serve as a basis for protein-based disease classification. Diagnostic criteria have been updated and disease staging procedures have been proposed. These are based on novel concepts which recognise that (1) most of these proteins follow a sequential distribution pattern in the brain suggesting a seeding mechanism and cell-to-cell propagation; (2) some of the neurodegeneration-associated proteins can be detected in peripheral organs; and (3) concomitant presence of neurodegeneration-associated proteins is more the rule than the exception. These concepts, together with the fact that the clinical symptoms do not unequivocally reflect the molecular pathological background, place the neuropathological examination at the centre of requirements for an accurate diagnosis. The need for quality control in biomarker development, clinical and neuroimaging studies, and evaluation of therapy trials, as well as an increasing demand for the general public to better understand human brain disorders, underlines the importance for a renaissance of postmortem neuropathological studies at this time. This review summarises recent advances in neuropathological diagnosis and reports novel aspects of relevance for general pathological practice.
- alpha-synuclein, neurodegeneration
- prion protein
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Handling editor Runjan Chetty.
Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.