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Advances in research on neurodegeneration. Volume 7
  1. Stephen Gentleman

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    By Yoshikuni Mizuno, Donald B Calne, Reinhard Horowski, Werner Poewe, Peter Riederer, and Moussa Youdim (Pp 214, US$95.00). Published by Springer-Verlag, Wien, 2000. ISBN 3-211-83485-0

    The book is part of a series based on the proceedings of the International Winter Conference on Neurodegeneration and Neuroinflammation. This particular volume arose from the seventh meeting, which was held in Karuizawa, Japan in January 1999.

    The conference brought together scientists from a wide range of research areas, under the broad heading of neurodegeneration, and their breadth of expertise is reflected in the eclectic mix of studies presented here. The papers fall into four general categories, paralleling the scientific sessions of the meeting. The first deals with progress in elucidating some of the genes and gene products involved in neurodegenerative processes. It includes an interesting paper on the cleavage of huntingtin by caspases and the possibility of using caspase inhibitors to stop the aggregation and hence neurotoxicity of the protein in Huntington's disease. This section also includes papers on inherited Parkinson's disease, both autosomal dominant and recessive mechanisms, with particular attention being paid to the role of the PARKIN gene in the juvenile onset form of the disease.

    The second, and largest, group of papers address the very topical subject of cell death mechanisms in neurodegeneration. The areas covered range from the role of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in spinal muscular atrophy, in vitro experiments looking at the effect of α-synuclein mutations in neuronal cell cultures, to the possible role of polymorphisms in the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) gene in models of multiple sclerosis. Perhaps surprisingly, there was relatively little on the toxicity associated with amyloid precursor protein processing in Alzheimer's disease. However, that may not have been such a bad thing in this context, as a thorough discussion of this topic could easily require a separate volume in itself. Also included in this section (although it's not entirely clear why) is an interesting re-evaluation of basal ganglia circuitry, by one of the editors, Professor Riederer, based on a review of clinical and experimental evidence.

    The third section reflects the burgeoning interest in the role of cytokines in neurodegeneration and includes papers on the role of cytokines in Parkinson's disease and in oligodendrocyte death. Unfortunately, there is no discussion of their role in Alzheimer's disease where their involvement has long been suspected. There has subsequently been a major increase of interest in this area with the discovery of polymorphisms within the genes for interleukin 1 and their effects on disease prevalence and age of onset.

    The final section is more speculative and deals with some possible future therapeutic interventions. These include the use of adeno-associated viral vectors for gene therapy in Parkinson's desease, neuroprotective therapies in multiple sclerosis, and the possible efficacy of transglutaminase inhibitors in the treatment of polyglutamine disorders.

    Overall, I found this an interesting volume to dip in to but it suffers from the common problem of all meeting proceedings in that two and a half years down the line some of the findings are already beginning to look somewhat dated. It is perhaps worth noting that, according to the publisher's website volume 8 of this series, based on the meeting in Bavaria in February 2000, is already available.

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