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Small-fiber involvement in spinobulbar muscular atrophy (Kennedy's disease)

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Abstract

We assessed the involvement of cutaneous innervation in two subjects with a molecularly confirmed diagnosis of spinobulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) using antidromic nerve conduction studies, quantitative sensory testing, and sweat tests, as well as immunohistochemical techniques and confocal microscopy of glabrous and hairy skin biopsy. Both patients showed a marked reduction in amplitude of sensory action potentials and moderate or severe abnormalities of tactile thresholds and mechanical pain perception. A severe reduction of sweat drops on the Silastic imprint test and a widespread loss of small myelinated and unmyelinated fibers in hairy skin were also observed. Fiber loss involved either somatic or autonomic fibers and did not show any distal–proximal gradient. These results, together with loss of Meissner corpuscles and their large myelinated afferent fibers in glabrous skin, confirmed the extensive involvement of sensory neurons of large and small size and revealed an autonomic skin denervation in SBMA. Muscle Nerve, 2007

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