The repeated head trauma experienced by boxers can lead to the development of dementia pugilistica (DP)--punch drunk syndrome. The neuropathology of DP in a classic report by Corsellis et al describes the presence of numerous neurofibrillary tangles in the absence of plaques, in contrast to the profusion of tangles and plaques seen in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The DP cases used in that report were re-investigated with immunocytochemical methods and an antibody raised to the beta-protein present in AD plaques. We found that all DP cases with substantial tangle formation showed evidence of extensive beta-protein immunoreactive deposits (plaques). These diffuse "plaques" were not visible with Congo-red or standard silver stains. The degree of beta-protein deposition was comparable to that seen in AD. Our data indicate that the present neuropathological description of DP (tangles but no plaques) should be altered to acknowledge the presence of substantial beta-protein deposition (plaques). The molecular markers present in the plaques and tangles of DP are the same as those in AD. Similarities in clinical symptoms, distribution of pathology and neurochemical deficits also exist. Epidemiological studies have shown that head injury is a risk factor in AD. It is probable that DP and AD share common pathogenic mechanisms leading to tangle and plaque formation.
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