Fibroblast and/or lymphoblastoid lines from patients with several inherited primary neuronal degenerations are hypersensitive to DNA-damaging agents. Therefore, lymphoblastoid lines were irradiated from patients with sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD), Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The mean survival values of the eight Parkinson's disease and of the six Alzheimer's disease lines, but not of the five amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lines, were less than that of the 28 normal lines. Our results with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease cells can be explained by a genetic defect arising as a somatic mutation during embryogenesis, causing defective repair of the X-ray type of DNA damage. Such a DNA repair defect could cause an abnormal accumulation of spontaneously occurring DNA damage in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease neurons in vivo, resulting in their premature death.
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