Region-specific vulnerability in neurodegeneration: lessons from normal ageingMore about Open Access at the Crick
A number of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), possess a shared characteristic of region-specific neurodegeneration. However, the mechanisms which determine why particular regions within the nervous system are selectively vulnerable to neurodegeneration, whilst others remain relatively unaffected throughout disease progression, remain elusive. Here, we review how regional susceptibility to the ubiquitous physiological phenomenon of normal ageing might underlie the vulnerability of these same regions to neurodegeneration, highlighting three regions archetypally associated with AD, PD and ALS (the hippocampus, substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral spinal cord, respectively), as especially prone to age-related alterations. Placing particular emphasis on these three regions, we comprehensively explore differential regional susceptibility to nervous system tissue, cellular and molecular level ageing to provide an integrated perspective on why age-related neurodegenerative diseases exhibit region-selective vulnerability. Combining these principles with increasingly recognised differences between chronological and biological ageing (termed differential or 'delta' ageing) might ultimately guide therapeutic approaches for these devastating neurodegenerative diseases, for which a paucity of disease modifying and/or life promoting treatments currently exist.