Adult-onset of tangier disease: 1. Morphometric and pathologic studies suggesting delayed degradation of neutral lipids after fiber degeneration

Peter James Dyck, Ralph D. Ellefson, Jeffrey K. Yao, Peter N. Herbert

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40 Scopus citations


A 67-year-old woman, with the typical biochemical features of Tangier disease, had a syringomyelia-like syndrome which has now been observed in several patients with symptomatic onset in adult life. She developed progressive facial diplegia, bilateral wasting of hand muscles and loss of sensation over cranial, cervical and brachial dermatomes over 17 years. Nociception alone was first affected, then nociception and thermal discrimination and finally all modalities of sensation. Quantified tests of cutaneous sensation confirmed that sensation was normal in lower limbs but markedly abnormal in upper limbs.Biopsied fascicles of cutaneous nerves from clinically affected (forearm) and from clinically unaffected (leg) regions permitted a comparison of welladvanced and early pathologic lesions, respectively. The selective vulnerability of unmyelinated and small myelinated fibers in affected regions in this disorder has been confirmed. The earliest morphologic abnormalities of myelinated fibers, but seen infrequently, were mitochondrial enlargement and structural abnormality, aggregation of mitochondria and dense bodies and clusters of neurofilaments. Increased numbers of sudanophilic lipid droplets did not seem to form in Schwann cell cytoplasm prior to fiber degeneration. On the contrary, for myelinated fibers there appeared to be an altered process of axonal degeneration from that seen in Wallerian degeneration and in other axonal degenerations. Distinctive linear bands of closelypacked, minute, osmiophilic and clear lipid droplets formed and their further degradation appeared delayed. Although less clearly demonstrated, lipid droplets in Schwann cells of unmyelinated fibers also appeared to form following their degeneration. We would propose that in Tangier disease, the degradation of myelin ovoids to neutral lipid in Schwann cells does not appear to be delayed. However, further degradation of neutral lipid or its transport away from Schwann cells appears to be retarded.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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