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Free Content Prionopathies and Prionlike Protein Aberrations in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Protein misfolding has been an area of intense research and is implicated in a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Key proteins in the brain lose their native ability to fold and instead assume abnormal conformations. Misfolded proteins cluster to form pathologic aggregates, which cause cellular dysfunction, neuronal death, and neurodegeneration. The prionopathies are best known among the neurodegenerative diseases for their ability to misfold, self-propagate, and infect other organisms. There is increasing evidence of a rationale for a prionlike mechanism of spread of other neurodegenerative diseases through a similar seeding mechanism. In this review, we detail the role of a key protein aberration known to the various prion diseases, including sporadic, variant, and iatrogenic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; variably protease-sensitive prionopathy; Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease; fatal familial insomnia; and kuru. We also discuss the clinical presentation, the available, and emerging imaging options for these diseases. In the second part of this review, we delineate how a prionlike seeding process may be driving the progression of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, and Huntington disease. A discussion of clinical presentation and imaging features of these example diseases follows to make a case for a common approach to developing imaging biomarkers and therapies of these diseases.

Learning Objective: Upon completion of this article, one should be able to describe the various types of prion diseases, recognize and identify the common the neuro-imaging findings in prion diseases, describe seeding mechanism of prion disease, list the common amyloid PET tracers used for Alzheimer’s disease, and list common imaging biomarkers in neurodegenerative diseases.
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