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Myasthenia Gravis

Alzheimer`s and myasthenia

11/09/2009

Question:

I`m under treatment for generalized myasthenia since 2006. I`m 49 years old. My father is 83 years old and received the diagnosis of Alzheimer`s disease. Since both diseases are related to acetylcholine and for the treatment of both the doctors prescribe something to improve the level of acetylcholine, I would like to know if there is some kind of genetic relationship between myasthenia gravis and Alzheimer`s disease. Thank you very much for your attention.

Answer:

It is true that both diseases involve acetylcholine and the drugs to treat both are related. But so far, we have not found a genetic link between the two diseases. The pathophysiology is different. We understand that autoimmune myasthenia involves antibodies that interfere with the acetylcholine receptor function in the peripheral nervous system. As of yet, we have not found an antibody involved in Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is still felt to be due to early death of neurons, and the subsequent damaged connectivity and neurochemical deficiencies (like acetylcholine) from this neuronal loss. Scientists have explored the central nervous system effects of myasthenia and this area is still controversial, but there are those who propose both psychiatric and cognitive side effects of myasthenia. So while there is a clear neurochemical relationship between the two diseases, there is still no known genetic relationship.

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Response by:

Robert W Neel, IV, MD Robert W Neel, IV, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati