Incidental Lewy body disease (ILBD) represents the early asymptomatic phase of Lewy body diseases (LBD), including idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD). Although pathological disturbances in the spinal cord, which connects the brain to the peripheral nervous system, plays an important role, the pathology of ILBD has not been adequately examined. Eighteen ILBD and eight age-matched LBD cases were enrolled in the present study. LB-related pathology was immunohistochemically evaluated using anti-phosphorylated α-synuclein (pαSyn) antibodies, revealing LB-related pathology in the spinal cords of 15 (83.3%) of the ILBD cases. Attempts were made to identify the early pattern of pαSyn deposition in the spinal cord by comparing the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral segments in detail. Most pαSyn-positive structures were distributed in and around the autonomic nuclei of the spinal cord. The intermediolateral nuclei in the thoracic segments (Th/IML) were the most frequently and severely affected region, suggesting that Th/IML are the first structures affected. Furthermore, following analysis of the distribution pattern of the pαSyn-positive structures, it is suspected that LB-related pathology progresses toward the caudal vertebrae by involving neurons in the spinal cord that are vulnerable to αSyn. It should be noted that the ILBD cases enrolled in the present study were in an earlier stage than the PD cases enrolled in the previous study, and that the present study provides new, previously undescribed information.
© 2011 Japanese Society of Neuropathology.