The first signs of the diseases in the neuroacanthocytosis (NA)
group are subtle and easily overlooked. Initial symptoms, which
often occur in the person’s mid 20’s, may include
grunts or tic noises made unconsciously in the throat, progressing
to drooling and problems in controlling the tongue from ejecting
food. Involuntary biting of the tongue, lips and/or cheeks may
At the beginning there can be a general, slight physical
awkwardness. Things on a shelf are knocked off for no apparent
reason. Difficulty with walking and balance can also be early
symptoms. Problems controlling trunk, leg and arm movements are
often barely noticeable at the beginning, but become increasingly
difficult as the disease progresses. Several patients find it
difficult to sleep at night and others report fatigue and weakness.
Personality change may also be an early indication. The carefree
young adult becomes obsessive-compulsive and uncharacteristically
forgetful or just loses confidence or drive. Fainting or epileptic
seizures may also occur. Mood changes may happen and a person often
becomes isolated, in part out of embarrassment.
There are several reports of the problems beginning after a
traumatic event including physical attack, unexpected failure of an
exam and birth of a child.
A defining symptom that is not apparent is the spiky red blood
cells, or acanthocytes, from which the NA disease group takes its
name. These unusual blood cells can be observed with a microscope
in some circumstances. Still more difficult to observe are the
alterations or mutations in patients’ genes. Each of the NA
group diseases has a different genetic characteristic that can be
determined only by blood tests.
A person showing some of this pattern of symptoms should see a
neurologist. Clinicians and patients can also visit www.naadvocacy.org
for links to further scientific reports. Full details are also
available on the free blood testing service offered by the Advocacy
for Neuroacanthocytosis Patients, aimed at helping determine a
definitive diagnosis for NA.
:: Useful NA
Neuroacanthocytosis Syndromes II, published December
2007, the book provides a profound insight into recent
developments within the field of neuroacanthocytosis syndromes.
Edited by Ruth H. Walker, Shinji Saiki and Adrian Danek.
Available at amazon.com
A Western blot test for the presence of chorein in the
membranes of red blood cells can be offered free of charge due to
support of the Advocacy for Neuroacanthocytosis Patients'.
Download instructions on the blood sampling and specimen shipment
as a PDF
or get more information on the method at PubMed
The entry for chorea acanthocytosis in GeneReviews
is the most complete, readily available report on ChAc. Published
by the University of Washington with the support of the National
Institutes of Health
A dedicated Patient & Families Support Group at Yahoo
Groups offers patients and families information, advice,
support or just an understanding ear
Visit PubMed for access to NA
research in English from the Medline database.
Visit the NA page on WeMove,
the Movement Disorder Societies charitable and educational
naadvocacy.org is the website of the The Institute
for Neuroacanthocytosis. It is the Advocacy's international
centre for supporting patients and promoting clinical and basic
research. The website provides access to resources found on
NA research call broadens to wider basal ganglia community
The basal ganglia are the region in the brain where degeneration first appears in NA patients.
Published on 31 October, the call was sent directly to 283 scientists around the world. It outlines the objectives of the research effort and invites applications for funds to be available in 2012.
What is Neuroacanthocytosis?
NA diseases are monogenic movement disorders associated with degeneration that begins in the basal ganglia. NA strikes generally in the third or fourth decade with phenotypes resembling Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The NA diseases are characterised by acanthocytic red blood cell membranes. We hypothesise that acanthocytosis relates to a malfunction in the membrane that in neurons may hamper normal autophagy and lead to cell death.
The Advocacy For Neuroacanthocytosis Patients, a London-based registered charity which currently funds research by investigators in four countries, seeks proposals from academic researchers for investigations into the etiology of basal ganglia degeneration in neuroacanthocytosis (NA).
Goals of Research funded by the NA Advocacy
The Advocacy’s medium-term goal is to identify the pathway to neurodegeneration in the NA diseases and eventually to find therapies to delay or prevent the development of neuroacanthocytosis.
We are especially interested in:
The function of the protein chorein (encoded by the gene VPS13A) that is missing in chorea-acanthocytosis (ChAc), the most common of the NA diseases.
Shape, folding, and abnormal folding of chorein, and the McLeod protein XK
Genome-wide association search for other mutations in NA patients
Relationship of acanthocytosis to cell malfunction and death
Development of animal or cell models
Work on the established registry of neuroacanthocytosis patients
Study of natural history of NA diseases in comparison to Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases
Protein interactions in NA diseases
Scope of investigation
Applications from Principal Investigators not currently pursuing NA research are welcome if their specific expertise, together with proof of project feasibility and relevance, can provide novel approaches to the identification of disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets for NA.
The Advocacy’s aim and expectation is to promote close collaboration between all researchers in the field of neuroacanthocytosis, including the investigators supported by the nine previous grants, as well as with the European Multidisciplinary Initiative on Neuroacanthocytosis (EMINA) (www.emina.med.uni-muenchen.de).
If results from Advocacy funded research are not accepted for publication within 6 months after the conclusion, it is expected that results, whether positive or negative, will be published in “PLoS Currents: Huntington Disease” (http://currents.plos.org/hd).
Since 2007 we have awarded nine grants for basic research projects and one for clinical research. Progress reports of these projects are at www.naadvocacy.org under NANews.
All proposals will be assessed by an independent review panel that will call on scientists with expertise in the field of proposal. The panel will consider: significance, technical merit, quality of the applicants´ previous work, relevance of research goals.