Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How can one disease have so many names?

question in cloud I am often asked where did the name Kennedy’s Disease come from.  Many people, when they first hear Kennedy’s Disease, associate it with some disease  that John F. Kennedy had.

You can imagine the confusion that exists when Kennedy's Disease goes by many names including (many are the same and just arranged or spelled differently):
  • Kennedy's Syndrome
  • Kennedy Disease
  • Spinal Bulbar Muscular Atrophy
  • Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy
  • X-linked Spinal Bulbar Muscular Atrophy
  • X-linked Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy
  • Bulbospinal Muscular Atrophy
  • SBMA
And, adding to the confusion, it seems that even researchers and doctors cannot agree on one name for the condition.

To make matters worse, when some people do a little research on symptoms, they often end up with other neuromuscular disorders or motor neuron diseases including Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA Type IV – Adult Onset) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Further, when they hear or read the word “disease”, people occasionally  associate it with something possibly contagious.

So, Why Kennedy’s Disease?

The condition was named after Dr. William Kennedy of the University of Minnesota who first identified this disease in the United States.  I pulled this from Dictionary.com:
Dr. William Kennedy
William Kennedy

Kennedy, William Robert (born 1927) American neurologist. Kennedy enjoyed a long association with the University of Minnesota's medical center in Minneapolis, rising to rank of professor of neurology. His major area of research was neuromuscular disorders. The neuromuscular disorder that bears his name was described in an article published in 1980 that he coauthored with M. Alter and J. H. Sung.
That being said, it appears Dr. Kennedy was not the first to identify the disorder.  I pulled this from Neurology MedLink:

Historical Note

Although Kennedy disease bears the name of William R Kennedy, the first reports of this disease were likely published by L. T. Kurland, who described an atypical form of lower motor neuron disease in a Japanese family (Kurland 1957). Following the reports by Kurland, Magee provided additional descriptions of patients with X-linked spinobulbar muscular atrophy in the absence of corticospinal tract involvement (Magee 1960). In 1968, Kennedy reported his experience with 2 large families at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (Kennedy et al 1968). The designation “Kennedy disease” was first introduced into the French literature in 1979 (Schoenen et al 1979). The disease garnered particular interest as the first example of a polyglutamine-repeat disorder, of which there are now several other neurologic examples, including Huntington disease and several of the spinocerebellar ataxias.

Whew!  I am glad I did this research because it is all so much clearer to me. :-)

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