Lewy bodies are abnormal aggregates of protein that develop inside nerve cells in Parkinson's disease (PD), Lewy body dementia, and some other disorders. They are identified under the microscope when histology is performed on the brain.
Lewy bodies appear as spherical masses that displace other cell components. The two morphological types are classical (brain stem) Lewy bodies and cortical Lewy bodies. A classical Lewy body is an eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusion consisting of a dense core surrounded by a halo of 10-nm-wide radiating fibrils, the primary structural component of which is alpha-synuclein. In contrast, a cortical Lewy body is less well defined and lacks the halo. Nonetheless, it is still made up of alpha-synuclein fibrils. Cortical Lewy bodies are a distinguishing feature of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), but may occasionally be seen in ballooned neurons characteristic of Pick's disease and corticobasal degeneration, as well as in patients with other tauopathies. They are also seen in cases of multiple system atrophy, particularly the Parkinsonian variant.
Lewy bodies were discovered by Frederic Lewy in 1912.
A Lewy body is composed of the protein alpha-synuclein associated with other proteins, such as ubiquitin, neurofilament protein, and alpha B crystallin. Tau proteins may also be present, and Lewy bodies may occasionally be surrounded by neurofibrillary tangles. Lewy bodies and NFTs can occasionally exist in the same neuron, particularly in the amygdala.
Lewy neurites are abnormal neurites in diseased neurons, containing granular material and abnormal α-synuclein filaments similar to those found in Lewy bodies. Like Lewy bodies, lewy neurites are a feature of α-synucleinopathies such as dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson's disease, and multiple system atrophy. They are also found in the CA2-3 region of the hippocampus in Alzheimer's disease.
Comedian and actor Robin Williams was found to suffer from dementia with Lewy bodies in addition to Parkinson's disease. Actress Estelle Getty and music industry icon Casey Kasem also suffered from dementia with Lewy bodies.
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