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A novel neurodegenerative disease characterised by posterior column ataxia and pyramidal tract involvement maps to chromosome 8p12–8q12.1
  1. P N Valdmanis1,
  2. A A Simões Lopes1,
  3. F Gros-Louis1,
  4. J D Stewart2,
  5. G A Rouleau1,
  6. N Dupré1,3
  1. 1McGill University Health Centre Research Institute and the Centre for Research in Neurosciences, 1650 Cedar Ave, Montreal, QC, Canada H3G 1A4
  2. 2Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute, and the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, 3801 University St, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2B4
  3. 3Département des Sciences Neurologiques, Centre de Recherche, Centre Hospitalier Affilié, Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus, Laval University, 1401, 18th St, Québec City, QC, Canada G1J 1Z4
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Nicolas Dupré
 McGill University Health Centre Research Institute and the Centre for Research in Neurosciences, L7–120, 1650 Cedar Ave, Montreal, QC, Canada H3G 1A4;

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The recent barrage of linkage assignments and gene discoveries has confirmed the clinical and genetic heterogeneity of ataxic diseases. They all share the prototypic feature of difficulty in walking though many additionally present dysarthria, spasticity, retinopathy, and other neurological symptoms.1 Broad subgroups of ataxias and related diseases exist including spinocerebellar and spastic ataxias, each with their own characteristic features.

The clinical and genetic heterogeneity of ataxias is best represented by the autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias (ADCAs). Indeed, a minimum of 22 loci have been discovered, including those for the spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA1–8, SCA10–17, SCA19, SCA21, and SCA22),2–8 the episodic ataxias EA19 and EA2,10 and the complex disorder, dentatorubropallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA).11 Similarly, Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive disease which affects the spinocerebellar and pyramidal tracts. Symptoms are typically noticed before 20 years of age and include dysarthria, nystagmus, areflexia, and a positive Babinski sign.12 Hereditary spastic ataxia (HSA) is characterised by retinopathy, muscle wasting, nystagmus, and dysarthria.13 Spastic ataxia (SAX1) is the first described dominant form,14 while the autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay (ARSACS) is one of a number of recessive forms.15 All told, the loci responsible for a significant proportion of hereditary causes of ataxias still have not been elucidated.16

A large amount of heterogeneity is also observed within the hereditary neuropathies. These include the hereditary sensory neuropathies (HSNs)17 and the more common hereditary motor and sensory neuropathies (HMSNs).18 Sensory ataxia is not present in the HSNs,19 since they affect mainly the unmyelinated and small myelinated nerve fibres, nor is it present in the HMSNs, where sensory symptoms are seldom the presenting complaint. A few rare families have been described with a hereditary sensory-motor neuropathy associated with ataxia (SMNA) of neuropathic origin.20–

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  • The Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) funded this study. FG-L and ND are supported by CIHR, while PNV is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

  • Conflict of interest: none declared.