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The Peripheral Nervous System and the Pathogenesis of Prion Diseases

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Prion diseases are inevitably fatal neurodegenerative conditions which affect humans and a wide variety of animals. Unlike other protein aggregation diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and polyglutamine repeat diseases, prion diseases are unique in that they are transmissible. Therefore, prion diseases are also called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

A number of prion diseases are caused by peripheral uptake of the infectious agent. In order to reach their target, the central nervous system, prions enter their host, accumulate and replicate in lymphoid organs, and eventually spread to the central nervous system via peripheral nerves. Once the agent has reached the central nervous system, disease progression is rapid, resulting in neurodegeneration and death. In this article, we review the state of knowledge on the routes of neuroinvasion used by the infectious agent in order to gain access to the central nervous system upon entry into extracerebral sites.
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Keywords: creutzfeldt-jakob disease; iymphoreticular system; peripheral nervous system; peripheral pathogenesis; prions

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Institute of Neuropathology,University Hospital of Zurich, Schmelzbergstrasse 12, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: 01 June 2004

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  • Current Molecular Medicine is an interdisciplinary journal focused on providing the readership with current and comprehensive reviews on fundamental molecular mechanisms of disease pathogenesis, the development of molecular-diagnosis and/or novel approaches to rational treatment. The reviews should be of significant interest to basic researchers and clinical investigators in molecular medicine. Periodically the journal will invite guest editors to devote an issue on a basic research area that shows promise to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanism(s) of a disease or has potential for clinical applications.
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