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What is 'systemic amyloidosis,' the disease Japan wrestling icon Inoki battled?

Antonio Inoki is pictured at the Members' Office Building of the House of Councillors in Tokyo in this June 2014 file photo. (Mainichi/Masaru Nishimoto)

TOKYO -- Antonio Inoki, a popular former professional wrestler known in the ring as "Moeru Toukon" (Burning Fighting Spirit) who went on to serve two terms in Japan's House of Councillors, died on Oct. 1. The icon, whose real name was Kanji Inoki, had been battling an intractable disease called "systemic amyloidosis," but what kind of ailment is this?

    According to the Japan Intractable Diseases Information Center, amyloidosis is a general term for diseases in which proteins resembling nylon fibers, known as amyloids, build up on various organs throughout the body, resulting in health problems. These diseases can be broadly divided into "systemic amyloidosis" affecting organs throughout the body, and "localized amyloidosis," which affects only certain organs. The systematic type is designated by Japan's health ministry as an intractable disease, and people who have it are eligible for medical subsidies.

    The disease's symptoms include heart failure, nephrotic syndrome, kidney failure, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as peripheral nerve and autonomic nerve disorders. It can cause swelling of the tongue, thyroid gland, and liver. It is known that the disease occurs when proteins build up on organs, but the detailed mechanism remains unclear.

    (Japanese original by Takuji Nakanishi, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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