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Open Access Highly Accessed Case Report

Selective loss of Purkinje cells in a patient with anti-gliadin-antibody-positive autoimmune cerebellar ataxia

Kazunori Nanri1*, Makoto Shibuya2, Takeshi Taguchi1, Akira Hasegawa1 and Nobuyuki Tanaka1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Tokyo Medical University Hachioji Medical Center 1163 Tatemachi, Hachioji, Tokyo, 193-0998, Japan

2 Department of Pathology, Tokyo Medical University Ibaraki Medical Center, Ibaraki, Tokyo, Japan

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Diagnostic Pathology 2011, 6:14  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-14

Published: 4 February 2011

Abstract

The patient was an 84-year-old woman who had the onset of truncal ataxia at age 77 and a history of Basedow's disease. Her ataxic gait gradually deteriorated. She could not walk without support at age 81 and she was admitted to our hospital at age 83. Gaze-evoked nystagmus and dysarthria were observed. Mild ataxia was observed in all limbs. Her deep tendon reflex and sense of position were normal. IgA anti-gliadin antibody, IgG anti-gliadin antibody, anti-SS-A/Ro antibody, anti-SS-B/La antibody and anti-TPO antibody were positive. A conventional brain MRI did not show obvious cerebellar atrophy. However, MRI voxel based morphometry (VBM) and SPECT-eZIS revealed cortical cerebellar atrophy and reduced cerebellar blood flow. IVIg treatment was performed and was moderately effective. After her death at age 85, the patient was autopsied. Neuropathological findings were as follows: selective loss of Purkinje cells; no apparent degenerative change in the efferent pathways, such as the dentate nuclei or vestibular nuclei; no prominent inflammatory reaction. From these findings, we diagnosed this case as autoimmune cerebellar atrophy associated with gluten ataxia. All 3 autopsies previously reported on gluten ataxia have noted infiltration of inflammatory cells in the cerebellum.

In this case, we postulated that the infiltration of inflammatory cells was not found because the patient's condition was based on humoral immunity. The clinical conditions of gluten ataxia have not yet been properly elucidated, but are expected to be revealed as the number of autopsied cases increases.