Homocysteine levels and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A possible link.
Zoccolella S, Bendotti C, Beghi E, Logroscino G.
Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti, Medical and Neurological Sciences, Clinic of Nervous System Diseases, University of Foggia.
Homocysteine (Hcy) exerts multiple neurotoxic mechanisms that have also been shown to be relevant in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We reviewed the published evidence to assess possible correlations between Hcy and ALS. A Medline literature search was performed to identify all studies on Hcy and ALS or motor neurons published from 1 January 1966 through 28 February 2009. Twelve studies (one in vitro, eight in vivo, and three studies on human subjects) were reviewed. The in vitro and in vivo animal studies showed that Hcy can damage motor neurons by inducing oxidative stress and stimulating excitotoxic receptors. In preliminary studies on human subjects, ALS subjects had higher median Hcy levels compared to age- and sex-matched controls. Higher Hcy levels were also correlated with a possible marker of disease progression. Finally, a short-term treatment with a high dose of methylcobalamin, which reduces Hcy levels, was effective in improving compound motor action potentials in patients with ALS. In conclusion, several types of evidence show that accumulation of Hcy may increase the risk and progression of motoneuronal degeneration. If this is confirmed, early interventions to decrease Hcy levels may be useful to modify ALS progression and possibly onset.