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:: How to recognise Neurocanthocytosis

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 follow.

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.

CLINICAL SIGNS

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 Resources

  • 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.
  • Search Google for the latest on NA
  • Visit the NA page on WeMove, the Movement Disorder Societies charitable and educational associate



:: naadvocacy.org

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 the website.

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New Research Grants announced by the Advocacy for NA Patients

Dr. Antonio Velayos Baeza, The Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics
Dr. Antonio Velayos Baeza, The Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics
The search for the elusive role of chorein (VPS13A), the protein that is missing from patients with ChAc, has been redoubled with a grant by the Advocacy to Dr. Antonio Velayos Baeza, co-head of the Monaco Group at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, who has contributed to chorea acanthocytosis research for 10 years.

The grant will allow Antonio to carry on the work, “Study of the Basic Features and the Role of Chorein In Human Cell Line Models.” This work complements the research begun with an Advocacy grant to Dr. Aaron Neiman at Stonybrook University, New York who approaches the problem from strong experience in the simple model of yeast.  Antonio and Aaron will share their insights in collaboration. In yeast the VPS13 protein is known to have a role in the cell health by moving nourishment and toxins. These studies may reveal why the absence of VPS13A causes death of neurons in the brain and provide a step towards finding a way to replace this function as a possible therapy for ChAc.

Dr. Gabriel Miltenberger-Mityeni, University of Lisbon
Dr. Gabriel Miltenberger-Mityeni, University of Lisbon
A new participant in NA research is Dr. Gabriel Miltenberger-Mityeni, a geneticist at the University of Lisbon who the Advocacy is supporting in initial genetic studies of ChAc patients to determine if there are other genetic anomalies that may interact with the absence of VPS13A to create symptoms of ChAc. The research will correlate the patients’ clinical symptoms as described in their pseudonymized clinical information Registry entry with the genetic findings. The Registry contains records of patients from around the world whose identities are protected and is available as a study tool to all qualified researchers.

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