FTD and inflammation – what’s the story?

It has been suggested in a number of studies that there may be a link between neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmunity (where the body develops an immune reaction against part of itself). Recent studies have suggested there may be a major role for inflammation in some of the FTD disorders.

A recent study from the UCSF FTD group aimed to examine if there is an association between autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and frontotemporal dementia.

The study examined how common autoimmune disease was in semantic dementia (SD) and in people who have progranulin mutations compared with people with Alzheimer’s disease and people who do not have a dementia. In a subset of patients they also examined the blood to measure levels of a marker of inflammation called tumour necrosis factor.

The study found an increased incidence of autoimmune diseases including inflammatory arthritis, skin disorders and gastrointestinal disorders in the patients with SD and progranulin mutations compared to those with Alzheimer’s disease and those without dementia. 

There were also increased levels of tumour necrosis factor in the blood in those patients with SD and progranulin mutations, suggesting increased inflammation.

These findings suggest that there may be an underlying autoimmune inflammatory state in these forms of FTD and raises the possibility of future research into this area and potential treatments that reduce inflammation.


Miller ZA, Rankin KP, Graff-Radford NR, Takada LT, Sturm VE, Cleveland CM, Criswell LA, Jaeger PA, Stan T, Heggeli KA, Hsu SC, Karydas A, Khan BK, Grinberg LT, Gorno-Tempini ML, Boxer AL, Rosen HJ, Kramer JH, Coppola G, Geschwind DH, Rademakers R, Seeley WW, Wyss-Coray T, Miller BL. TDP-43 frontotemporal lobar degeneration and autoimmune disease.  J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013;84(9):956-62.

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