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The Controversial Role Of Homocysteine In Neurology: From Labs To Clinical Practice

Rita Moretti, Paola Caruso

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Homocysteine (Hcy) is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is generated during methionine metabolism. Physiologic Hcy levels are determined primarily by dietary intake and vitamin status. Elevated plasma levels of Hcy can be caused by deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folate. Hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) can be responsible of different systemic and neurological disease. Actually, HHcy has been considered as a risk factor for systemic atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and HHcy has been reported in many neurologic disorders including cognitive impairment and stroke, independent of long-recognized factors such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and smoking. HHcy is typically defined as levels >15 micromol/L. Treatment of hyperhomocysteinemia with folic acid and B vitamins seems to be effective in the prevention of the development of atherosclerosis, CVD, and strokes. However, data from literature show controversial results regarding the significance of homocysteine as a risk factor for CVD and stroke and whether patients should be routinely screened for homocysteine. HHcy-induced oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, smooth muscle cell proliferation, and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress have been considered to play an important role in the pathogenesis of several diseases including atherosclerosis and stroke. The aim of our research is to review the possible role of HHcy in neurodegenerative disease and stroke and to understand its pathogenesis.