Anne-Marie Wills

Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (15)117.42 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with few therapeutic options. Mild obesity is associated with greater survival in patients with the disease, and calorie-dense diets increased survival in a mouse model. We aimed to assess the safety and tolerability of two hypercaloric diets in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis receiving enteral nutrition. Methods In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised phase 2 clinical trial, we enrolled adults with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis from participating centres in the USA. Eligible participants were aged 18 years or older with no history of diabetes or liver or cardiovascular disease, and who were already receiving percutaneous enteral nutrition. We randomly assigned participants (1:1:1) using a computer-generated list of random numbers to one of three dietary interventions: replacement calories using an isocaloric tube-fed diet (control), a high-carbohydrate hypercaloric tube-fed diet (HC/HC), or a high-fat hypercaloric tube-fed diet (HF/HC). Participants received the intervention diets for 4 months and were followed up for 5 months. The primary outcomes were safety and tolerability, analysed in all patients who began their study diet. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00983983. Findings Between Dec 14, 2009, and Nov 2, 2012, we enrolled 24 participants, of whom 20 started their study diet (six in the control group, eight in the HC/HC group, and six in the HF/HC group). One patient in the control group, one in the HC/HC group, and two in the HF/HC group withdrew consent before receiving the intervention. Participants who received the HC/HC diet had a smaller total number of adverse events than did those in the other groups (23 in the HC/HC group vs 42 in the control group vs 48 in the HF/HC group; overall, p=0·06; HC/HC vs control, p=0·06) and significantly fewer serious adverse events than did those on the control diet (none vs nine; p=0·0005). Fewer patients in the HC/HC group discontinued their study diet due to adverse events (none [0%] of eight in the HC/HC group vs three [50%] of six in the control group). During the 5 month follow-up, no deaths occurred in the nine patients assigned to the HC/HC diet compared with three deaths (43%) in the seven patients assigned to the control diet (log-rank p=0·03). Adverse events, tolerability, deaths, and disease progression did not differ significantly between the HF/HC group and the control group. Interpretation Our results provide preliminary evidence that hypercaloric enteral nutrition is safe and tolerable in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and support the study of nutritional interventions in larger randomised controlled trials at earlier stages of the disease. Funding Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, and Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center.
    The Lancet 01/2014; · 39.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To conclusively test for a specific association between the biological marker 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3, a transcriptionally active hormone produced in human skin and liver, and the prevalence and severity of Parkinson disease (PD). We used liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry to establish an association specifically between deficiency of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 and PD in a cross-sectional and longitudinal case-control study of 388 patients (mean Hoehn and Yahr stage of 2.1 ± 0.6) and 283 control subjects free of neurologic disease nested in the Harvard Biomarker Study. Plasma levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 were associated with PD in both univariate and multivariate analyses with p values = 0.0034 and 0.047, respectively. Total 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels, the traditional composite measure of endogenous and exogenous vitamin D, were deficient in 17.6% of patients with PD compared with 9.3% of controls. Low 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 as well as total 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels were correlated with higher total Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale scores at baseline and during follow-up. Our study reveals an association between 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 and PD and suggests that thousands of patients with PD in North America alone may be vitamin D-deficient. This finding has immediate relevance for individual patients at risk of falls as well as public health, and warrants further investigation into the mechanism underlying this association.
    Neurology 09/2013; · 8.25 Impact Factor
  • Sabrina Paganoni, Anne-Marie Wills
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Epidemiologic data suggest that malnutrition is a common feature in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and being overweight or obese confers a survival advantage in this patient population. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mouse models, a high-fat diet has been shown to lead to weight gain and prolonged survival. However, little research has been conducted to test whether nutritional interventions might ameliorate the disease course in humans. Here we review the currently available evidence supporting the potential role of dietary interventions as a therapeutic tool for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ultimately, determining whether a high-fat or ketogenic diet could be beneficial in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis will require large randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
    Journal of child neurology 05/2013; · 1.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background and aims Enteral nutrition (EN) is commonly prescribed for dysphagia and weight loss in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but there are currently no ALS-specific EN guidelines. We aimed to survey current practices prescribing EN to ALS patients. Methods An online survey was distributed using list servers administered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), and ALS Association (ALSA). Results A total of 148 dietitians, nurses, and physicians participated in the survey, of whom 50% were dietitians and 68% were associated with an ALS clinic. Only 47% of respondents reported their patients to be fully compliant with EN recommendations. Side effects (fullness, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating) were the most important reason for patient noncompliance, followed by dependence on caregivers. By contrast, only 3% of providers rated depression/hopelessness as the most important reason for non-compliance. Half of those surveyed reported that more than 25% of patients continued to lose weight after starting EN. Conclusions Our survey results show a high frequency of gastrointestinal side effects and weight loss in ALS patients receiving EN. These findings may be limited by sampling error and non-response bias. Prospective studies are needed to help establish EN guidelines for ALS.
    e-SPEN Journal. 02/2013; 8(1):e25–e28.
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Adenosine A(2A) receptor antagonists reduce or prevent the development of dyskinesia in animal models of levodopa-induced dyskinesia. METHODS: We examined the association between self-reported intake of the A(2A) receptor antagonist caffeine and time to dyskinesia in the Comparison of the Agonist Pramipexole with Levodopa on Motor Complications of Parkinson's Disease (CALM-PD) and CALM Cohort extension studies, using a Cox proportional hazards model adjusting for age, baseline Parkinson's severity, site, and initial treatment with pramipexole or levodopa. RESULTS: For subjects who consumed >12 ounces of coffee/day, the adjusted hazard ratio for the development of dyskinesia was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.37-1.01) compared with subjects who consumed <4 ounces/day. For subjects who consumed between 4 and 12 ounces/day, the adjusted hazard ratio was 0.73 (95% CI, 0.46-1.15; test for trend, P = .05). CONCLUSIONS: These results support the possibility that caffeine may reduce the likelihood of developing dyskinesia. © 2013 Movement Disorder Society.
    Movement Disorders 01/2013; · 4.56 Impact Factor
  • Muscle & Nerve 04/2012; 45(4):612. · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Elevated uric acid levels have recently been found to be associated with slower disease progression in Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, multiple system atrophy, and mild cognitive impairment. The aim of this study is to determine whether serum uric acid levels predict survival in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A total of 251 people with ALS enrolled in two multicenter clinical trials were included in our analysis. The main outcome measure was survival time, which was calculated as time to death, tracheostomy, or permanent assistive ventilation, with any event considered a survival endpoint. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) of reaching a survival endpoint according to baseline uric acid levels after adjusting for markers of disease severity (FVC, total ALSFRS-R score, time since symptom onset, diagnostic delay, BMI, bulbar vs. spinal onset, age, and riluzole use). There was a dose-dependent survival advantage in men, but not women, with higher baseline uric acid levels (logrank test: p = 0.018 for men, p = 0.81 for women). There was a 39% reduction in risk of death during the study for men with each 1 mg/dl increase in uric acid levels (adjusted HR: 0.61, 95% CI 0.39-0.96, p = 0.03). This is the first study to demonstrate that serum uric acid is associated with prolonged survival in ALS, after adjusting for markers of disease severity. Similar to previous reports in Parkinson's disease, this association was seen in male subjects only.
    Journal of Neurology 02/2012; 259(9):1923-8. · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several studies have suggested an increased frequency of variants in the gene encoding angiogenin (ANG) in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Interestingly, a few ALS patients carrying ANG variants also showed signs of Parkinson disease (PD). Furthermore, relatives of ALS patients have an increased risk to develop PD, and the prevalence of concomitant motor neuron disease in PD is higher than expected based on chance occurrence. We therefore investigated whether ANG variants could predispose to both ALS and PD. We reviewed all previous studies on ANG in ALS and performed sequence experiments on additional samples, which allowed us to analyze data from 6,471 ALS patients and 7,668 controls from 15 centers (13 from Europe and 2 from the USA). We sequenced DNA samples from 3,146 PD patients from 6 centers (5 from Europe and 1 from the USA). Statistical analysis was performed using the variable threshold test, and the Mantel-Haenszel procedure was used to estimate odds ratios. Analysis of sequence data from 17,258 individuals demonstrated a significantly higher frequency of ANG variants in both ALS and PD patients compared to control subjects (p = 9.3 × 10(-6) for ALS and p = 4.3 × 10(-5) for PD). The odds ratio for any ANG variant in patients versus controls was 9.2 for ALS and 6.7 for PD. The data from this multicenter study demonstrate that there is a strong association between PD, ALS, and ANG variants. ANG is a genetic link between ALS and PD.
    Annals of Neurology 12/2011; 70(6):964-73. · 11.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neurodegenerative diseases are often characterized by the presence of aggregates of misfolded proteins. TDP-43 is a major component of these aggregates in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but has also been observed in Alzheimer's (AD) and Parkinson's Diseases (PD). In addition, mutations in the TARDBP gene, encoding TDP-43, have been found to be a significant cause of familial ALS (FALS). All mutations, except for one, have been found in exon 6. To confirm this observation in ALS and to investigate whether TARDBP may play a role in the pathogenesis of AD and PD, we screened for mutations in exon 6 of the TARDBP gene in three cohorts composed of 376 AD, 463 PD (18% familial PD) and 376 ALS patients (50% FALS). We found mutations in ∼ 7% of FALS and ∼0.5% of sporadic ALS (SALS) patients, including two novel mutations, p.N352T and p.G384R. In contrast, we did not find TARDBP mutations in our cohort of AD and PD patients. These results suggest that mutations in TARDBP are not a significant cause of AD and PD.
    Neurobiology of aging 11/2011; 32(11):2096-9. · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) cause autosomal dominant forms of Parkinson's disease, but the substantial risk conferred by this locus to the common sporadic disease has only recently emerged from genome-wide association studies. We genotyped a prioritized noncoding variant in SNCA intron 4 in 344 patients with Parkinson's disease and 275 controls from the longitudinal Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center Biomarker Study. The common minor allele of rs2736990 was associated with elevated disease susceptibility (odds ratio, 1.40; P = .0032). This result increases confidence in the notion that in many clinically well-characterized patients, genetic variation in SNCA contributes to "sporadic" disease.
    Movement Disorders 09/2011; 26(12):2283-6. · 4.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have provided conflicting data regarding the role of dyslipidemia in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The aim of this study was to determine whether cholesterol level are an independent predictor of survival in ALS. Cholesterol levels were measured in 427 ALS subjects from three clinical trial databases. The LDL/HDL ratio did not decrease over time, despite significant declines in body mass index (BMI), forced vital capacity (FVC), and ALSFRS-R. After adjusting for BMI, FVC, and age, the lipid ratio was not associated with survival. There was a "U"-shaped association between BMI and mortality, with the highest survival at 30-35 kg/m(2). The adjusted hazard ratio for the linear association between BMI and survival was 0.860 (95% CI 0.80-0.93, P = 0.0001). We found that dyslipidemia is not an independent predictor of survival in ALS. BMI is an independent prognostic factor for survival after adjusting for markers of disease severity.
    Muscle & Nerve 07/2011; 44(1):20-4. · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Defective RNA metabolism is an emerging mechanism involved in ALS pathogenesis and possibly in other neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we show that microRNA (miRNA) activity is essential for long-term survival of postmitotic spinal motor neurons (SMNs) in vivo. Thus, mice that do not process miRNA in SMNs exhibit hallmarks of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), including sclerosis of the spinal cord ventral horns, aberrant end plate architecture, and myofiber atrophy with signs of denervation. Furthermore, a neurofilament heavy subunit previously implicated in motor neuron degeneration is specifically up-regulated in miRNA-deficient SMNs. We demonstrate that the heavy neurofilament subunit is a target of miR-9, a miRNA that is specifically down-regulated in a genetic model of SMA. These data provide evidence for miRNA function in SMN diseases and emphasize the potential role of miR-9-based regulatory mechanisms in adult neurons and neurodegenerative states.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2010; 107(29):13111-6. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Three clustered, homologous paraoxonase genes (PON1, PON2, and PON3) have roles in preventing lipid oxidation and detoxifying organophosphates. Recent reports describe a genetic association between the PON genes and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We now report that in genomic DNA from individuals with familial and sporadic ALS, we have identified at least 7 PON gene mutations that are predicted to alter PON function.
    Annals of Neurology 07/2010; 68(1):102-7. · 11.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a degenerative disorder of motor neurons that typically develops in the 6th decade and is uniformly fatal, usually within 5 years. To identify genetic variants associated with susceptibility and phenotypes in sporadic ALS, we performed a genome-wide SNP analysis in sporadic ALS cases and controls. A total of 288,357 SNPs were screened in a set of 1,821 sporadic ALS cases and 2,258 controls from the U.S. and Europe. Survival analysis was performed using 1,014 deceased sporadic cases. Top results for susceptibility were further screened in an independent sample set of 538 ALS cases and 556 controls. SNP rs1541160 within the KIFAP3 gene (encoding a kinesin-associated protein) yielded a genome-wide significant result (P = 1.84 x 10(-8)) that withstood Bonferroni correction for association with survival. Homozygosity for the favorable allele (CC) conferred a 14.0 months survival advantage. Sequence, genotypic and functional analyses revealed that there is linkage disequilibrium between rs1541160 and SNP rs522444 within the KIFAP3 promoter and that the favorable alleles of rs1541160 and rs522444 correlate with reduced KIFAP3 expression. No SNPs were associated with risk of sporadic ALS, site of onset, or age of onset. We have identified a variant within the KIFAP3 gene that is associated with decreased KIFAP3 expression and increased survival in sporadic ALS. These findings support the view that genetic factors modify phenotypes in this disease and that cellular motor proteins are determinants of motor neuron viability.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2009; 106(22):9004-9. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder of upper and lower motor neurons. Genetic variants in the paraoxonase gene cluster have been associated with susceptibility to sporadic ALS. Because these studies have yielded conflicting results, we have further investigated this association in a larger data set. Twenty SNPs spanning the paraoxonase gene cluster were genotyped on a panel of 597 case and 692 control samples and tested for association with risk of sporadic ALS and with ALS sub-phenotypes. Our study revealed two SNPs, rs987539 and rs2074351, within the paraoxonase gene cluster that are associated with susceptibility to sporadic ALS (uncorrected p=6.47E-04 and 7.87E-04, respectively). None of the 20 SNPs displayed significant associations with age of onset, site of onset or disease survival. Using a sliding window approach, we have also identified a 5-SNP haplotype that is significantly associated with risk of sporadic ALS (p=2.75E-05). We conclude that a common haplotype within the PON1 promoter region is associated with susceptibility to sporadic ALS.
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 08/2008; 9(5):306-14. · 3.40 Impact Factor