We report the first Italian kindred with Familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (FALS) due to c.149T>C mutation in the exon 5 of superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene. The proband was a 49-year-old woman who came to our observation because of an history of progressive limbs weakness and gait impairment. She belonged to a family of 24 affected members. The prevalent phenotype of the affected members was characterized by slowly progressive spinal impairment with proximal distribution of weakness, and bulbar involvement in advanced stages. We briefly reviewed the few previous reports about the same SOD1 mutation and discussed the hypothesis that structural instability of the mutant codon 149 protein may underlie some toxic effects significantly involved in FALS pathogenesis.
Familial ALS (FALS); superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1); mutation
The various measures used to treat the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), i.e. medication with steroids, early operation on contractures and spine deformities as well as cardiac diagnostics and therapy, should always be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient's respiratory status. Therapy for respiratory failure, in particular long-term ventilation, is now generally accepted as essential for DMD patients. The provision of assisted ventilation has made a decisive contribution to the quality of life for older patients and the stigma hitherto attached to it as being merely a means of keeping a patient comfortable towards the end of life has now been dispelled. Even outside the hospital, assisted ventilation has become routine. These days it is not uncommon for patients on assisted ventilation to have their life extended by 10 years or more.
Non-invasive ventilation is sufficient if used concomitantly with coughing aids. Before undergoing orthopaedic surgery the patient' s respiratory status has to be carefully assessed in order to minimize the risk of perioperative complications. Feeding and swallowing problems may develop if the patient has a scoliosis of the cervical spine region, even if he has had thoraco-lumbar spine surgery. There is still insufficient awareness of this potential problem in relation to respiratory care.
Interdisciplinary collaboration between hospitals, general practitioners, muscle and respiratory centres, as well as advocacies and self-help groups is vital. The administration of aids to support DMD patients is now facilitated by guidelines drawn up by several centres of excellence. Here we mainly describe the historic development of respiratory care at the Ulm Neuromuscular Centre.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; respiratory failure; non-invasive ventilation; increased survival
Nemaline myopathy is a rare congenital disease that generally occurs in childhood. We report a case of a 50-year-old man who presented with severe heart failure as the initial manifestation of nemaline myopathy. Soon after he developed acute restrictive respiratory failure due to the diaphragmatic paralysis. The diagnosis of "nemaline myopathy" was obtained on muscle biopsy performed one year later. After starting appropriate cardiological treatment and non-invasive ventilation, his cardiac and pulmonary functions improved substantially, remaining stable for over the 10 years since diagnosis. In the last two years the patient had a progressive deterioration of respiratory function, enabling him to attend daily activities.
Few cases of respiratory failure in patients with adult-onset nemaline myopathy are reported, but the insidious onset in this case is even more unusual. This case highlights the wide spectrum of presenting features of adult-onset nemaline myopathy and the temporary efficacy of non invasive ventilation on respiratory function.
Nemaline myopathy; heart failure; respiratory failure
Muscular dystrophies such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are usually approached as dysfunctions of the affected skeletal myofibres and their force transmission. Comparatively little attention has been given to the increase in connective tissue (fibrosis) which accompanies these muscular changes. Interestingly, an increase in endomysial tissue is apparent long before any muscular degeneration can be observed. Fibrosis is the result of a reactive or reparative process involving mechanical, humoral and cellular factors. Originating from vulnerable myofibres, muscle cell necrosis and inflammatory processes are present in DMD. Muscular recovery is limited due to the limited number and capacity of satellite cells. Hence, a proactive and multimodal approach is necessary in order to activate protective mechanisms and to hinder catabolic and tissue degrading pathways.
Several avenues are discussed in terms of potential antifibrotic therapy approaches. These include pharmaceutical, nutritional, exercise-based and other mechanostimulatory modalities (such as massage or yoga-like stretching) with the intention of exerting an anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic effect on the affected muscular tissues. A preventive intervention at an early age is crucial, based on the early and seemingly non-reversible nature of the fibrotic tissue changes. Since consistent assessment is essential, different measurement technologies are discussed.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; fibrosis; endo- and perimysium; extracellular matrix; TGF-β1; myostatin; antifibrotic
The Duchenne Muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most frequent muscle disorder in childhood caused by mutations in the Xlinked dystrophin gene (about 65% deletions, about 7% duplications, about 26% point mutations and about 2% unknown mutations). The clinically milder Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) is allelic to DMD. About 33% of all patients are due to de novo mutations and germ line mosaicism is frequently observed. While in earlier studies equal mutation rates in males and females had been reported, a breakdown by mutation types can better explain the sex ratio of mutations: Point mutations and duplications arise preferentially during spermatogenesis whereas deletions mostly arise in oogenesis.
With current analytical methods, the underlying mutation can be identified in the great majority of cases and be used for carrier detection. However, in families with no mutation carrier available, the genetic model to be used for counselling of relatives can be quite complex.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Becker muscular dystrophy; dystrophin gene; molecular genetic diagnosis; genetic model; germ line mosaicism
Next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies offer the possibility to map entire genomes at affordable costs. This brings the genetic testing procedure to a higher level of complexity. The positive aspect is the ease to cope with the complex diagnosis of genetically heterogeneous disorders and to identify novel disease genes. Worries arise from the management of too many DNA variations with unpredictable meaning and incidental findings that can cause ethical and clinical dilemmas. The technology of enrichment makes possible to focus the sequencing to the exome or to a more specific DNA target. This is being used to provide insights into the genetics underlying Mendelian traits involved in myopathies and to set up cost-effective diagnostic tests. This huge potential of the NGS applications makes likely that these will soon become the first approach in genetic diagnostic laboratories.
Next generation sequencing; NGS; neuromuscular disorders
Atrial Preference Pacing (APP) is a pacemaker (PM) algorithm that works by increasing the atrial pacing rate to achieve continuous suppression of a spontaneous atrial rhythm and prevent supraventricular tachyarrhythmias. We have previously shown that atrial preference pacing may significantly reduce the number and the duration of AF episodes in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) patients who are paced for standard indications.
However, the role that APP therapies play in the prevention of AF in a long-term period remains still unclear. Aim of the present prospective study was to evaluate whether this beneficial effect is maintained for 24-months follow-up period.
To this aim, 50 patients with Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 who underwent dual-chamber PM implantation for first- and second- degree atrioventricular block, were consecutively enrolled and followed for 2 years. One month later the stabilization period, after the implantation, they were randomized to APP algorithm programmed OFF or ON for 6 months each, using a cross-over design, and remained in the same program for the second year. The results showed that while the number of AF episodes during active treatment (APP ON phases) was lower than that registered during no treatment (APP OFF phases), no statistically significant difference was found in AF episodes duration between the two phases. Furthermore, during the APP OFF and APP ON phases, the percentage of atrial pacing was 0 and 99%, respectively, while the percentage of ventricular pacing did not show differences statistically significant (11 vs. 9%, P = 0.2). Atrial premature beats were significantly higher during APP OFF phases than during APP ON phases. Lead parameters remained stable over time and there were no lead-related complications. Based on these 24-months follow-up data, we can conclude that, in DM1 patients who underwent dual-chamber PM implantation, APP is an efficacy algorithm for preventing paroxysmal AF even in long term periods.
myotonic dystrophy; atrial preference pacing; atrial
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is the most common muscle disease in children. Historically, DMD results in loss of ambulation between ages 7 and 13 years and death in the teens or 20s. In order to determine whether survival has improved over the decades and whether the impact of nocturnal ventilation combined with a better management of cardiac involvement has been able to modify the pattern of survival, we reviewed the notes of 835 DMD patients followed at the Naples Centre of Cardiomyology and Medical Genetics from 1961 to 2006. Patients were divided, by decade of birth, into 3 groups: 1) DMD born between 1961 and 1970; 2) DMD born between 1971 and 1980; 3) DMD born between 1981 and 1990; each group was in turn subdivided into 15 two-year classes, from 14 to 40 years of age. Age and causes of death, type of cardiac treatment and use of a mechanical ventilator were carefully analyzed.
The percentage of survivors in the different decades was statistically compared by chi-square test and Kaplan-Meier survival curves analyses. A significant decade on decade improvement in survival rate was observed at both the age of 20, where it passed from 23.3% of patients in group 1 to 54% of patients in group 2 and to 59,8% in patients in group 3 (p < 0.001) and at the age of 25 where the survival rate passed from 13.5% of patients in group 1 to 31.6% of patients in group 2 and to 49.2% in patients in group 3 (p < 0.001).
The causes of death were both cardiac and respiratory, with a prevalence of the respiratory ones till 1980s. The overall mean age for cardiac deaths was 19.6 years (range 13.4-27.5), with an increasing age in the last 15 years. The overall mean age for respiratory deaths was 17.7 years (range 11.6-27.5) in patients without a ventilator support while increased to 27.9 years (range 23-38.6) in patients who could benefit of mechanical ventilation.
This report documents that DMD should be now considered an adulthood disease as well, and as a consequence more public health interventions are needed to support these patients and their families as they pass from childhood into adult age.
Duchenne; survival; cardiomyopathy
To determine the survival in a population of German patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Patients and methods:
Information about 94 patients born between 1970 and 1980 was obtained by telephone interviews and questionnaires. In addition to age of death or actual age during the investigation, data concerning clinical course and medical interventions were collected.
67 patients with molecularly confirmed diagnoses had a median survival of 24.0 years. Patients without molecular confirmation (clinical diagnosis only) had a chance of 67 % to reach that age. Grouping of our patient cohort according to the year of death (before and after 2000), ventilation was recognized as main intervention affecting survival with ventilated reaching a median survival of 27.0 years. For those without ventilation it was 19.0 years.
Conclusion and clinical relevance:
our study provides survival data for a cohort of DMD patients in Germany stratified by year of death. Median survival was 24.0 years in patients confirmed by molecular testing. Ventilated patients had a median survival of 27 years. We consider this piece of information helpful in the medical care of DMD patients.
duchenne muscular dystrophy; survival; ventilation
Myotonic dystrophy (Dystrophia Myotonica, DM) is the most frequently inherited neuromuscular disease of adult life. It is a multisystemic disease with major cardiac involvement. Core features of myotonic dystrophy are myotonia, muscle weakness, cataract, respiratory failure and cardiac conduction abnormalities. Classical DM, first described by Steinert and called Steinert's disease or DM1 (Dystrophia Myotonica type 1) has been identified as an autosomal dominant disorder associated with the presence of an abnormal expansion of a CTG trinucleotide repeat in the 3' untranslated region of DMPK gene on chromosome 19. This review will mainly focus on the various aspects of cardiac involvement in DM1 patients and the current role of cardiac pacing in their treatment.
myotonic dystrophy type 1; arrhythmias; cardiac pacing
In previous studies 1-3 % of ALS patients have TARDBP mutations as the cause of the disease. TARDBP mutations have been reported in ALS patients in different populations but so far there are no studies on the frequency of TARDBP mutations in Finnish ALS patients. A cohort of 50 Finnish patients, 44 SALS and 6 FALS patients, were included in the study. Genomic DNA was extracted from venous blood or muscle tissue and a mutation analysis of TARDBP was performed. No definitely pathogenic mutations could be identified in TARDBP in our patient cohort. However, two previously unknown variations were found: one silent mutation in exon 2 and one relatively deep intronic single nucleotide insertion in intron 5. In addition, two previously known non-pathogenic polymorphisms in intron 5 were detected. The size of our cohort is obviously not large enough to conclusively exclude TARDBP mutations as a very rare cause of ALS in Finland. However, based on our results TARDBP mutations do not appear to be a frequent cause of familial or sporadic ALS in Finland.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; mutation screening; TARDBP
We report an improvement in symptoms of heart failure, a reduced left ventricular dysfunction and induced reverse remodelling in one patient with Myotonic Dystrophy type 1, showing an early onset ventricular dysfunction secondary to a complete left bundle branch block (LBBB) who underwent cardioverter defibrillator CRT (ICD- CRT) implantation.
myotonic dystrophy; cardiac resynchronization therapy; sudden death
The author presents the chronological development of therapy by corticosteroids in myasthenia gravis (MG), as well as dilemmas connected to this kind of treatment at the Centre/Institute Zagreb, she founded. The improvement of postoperative prognosis of thymectomy with corticosteroids is described and transfer of positive experiences to other neurological diseases. The side effects can be reduced significantly by respecting the basic rules: the choice of corticosteroids (fluocortolone, methyprednisolone, no dexamethasone), single dose administered in the morning, not later than 8 a.m. (respecting the circadian rhythm of concentration of cortisol in blood). Initially, the high dose is administered daily, until the stabilisation of signs and symptoms improvement. Then, in my early modification, the initial dose, administered every other day, becames gradually lowered. The diet is similar to diabetic, with the potassium added. In the period from 1973 to 1990, 212 myasthenia gravis and 37 polymyositis patients were treated that way.
We recommend to continue endocrinological research, on which we already reported, now with contemporary methods. The value of the "pulse therapy" should be analysed in more details, with peroral corticosteroids added afterwards.
Myasthenia gravis; corticosteroids
Myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is caused by CCTG-repeat expansions. Occurrence of splicing and mutations in the muscle chloride channel gene CLCN1 have been reported to contribute to the phenotype. To examine the effect of CLCN1 in DM2 in Germany, we determined the frequency of a representative ClC1 mutation, R894X, and its effect on DM2 clinical features. Then, we examined CLCN1 mRNA splice variants in patient muscle functionally expressed the most abundant variant, and determined its subcellular localization. Finally, we established a cellular system for studying mouse clcn1 pre-mRNA splicing and tested effects of expression of (CCUG)18, (CUG)24 and (AAG)24 RNAs. The R894X mutation was present in 7.7% of DM2 families. DM2 R894X-carriers had more myotonia and myalgia than non-carriers. The most abundant CLCN1 splice variant in DM2 (80% of all transcripts) excluded exons 6-7 and lead to a truncated ClC1236X protein. Heterologous ClC1236X expression did not yield functional channels. Co-expression with ClC1 did not show a dominant negative effect, but a slightly suppressive effect. In C2C12 cells, the clc1 splice variants generated by (CCUG)18-RNA resembled those in DM2 muscle and differed from those generated by (CUG)24 and (AAG)24. We conclude that ClC1 mutations exert gene dose effects and enhance myotonia and pain in DM2 in Germany. Additionally, the ClC1236X splice variant may contribute to myotonia in DM2. Since splice variants depend on the types of repeats expressed in the cellular C2C12 model, similar cell models of other tissues may be useful for studying repeatdependent pathogenetic mechanisms more easily than in transgenic animals.
PROMM; myotonic dystrophy; chloride channel
The periodic paralyses are hereditary muscle diseases which cause both episodic and permanent weakness. Permanent weakness may include both reversible and fixed components, the latter caused by fibrosis and fatty replacement. To determine the degree of handicap and impact of permanent weakness on daily life, we conducted a 68-question online survey of 66 patients over 41 years (mean age, 60 ± 14 years). Permanent weakness occurred in 68%, muscle pain in 82% and muscle fatigue in 89%. Eighty-three percent of patients reported themselves as moderately to very active between ages 18-35. At the time of the survey only 14% reported themselves as moderately to very active. Contrary to the literature, only 21% of patients reported decreased frequency of episodic weakness with increased age. Sixty-seven percent had incurred injuries due to falls. Mobility aids were required by 49%. Strength increased in 49% of patients receiving professional physiotherapy and in 62% performing self-managed exercise routines. A decline of strength was observed by 40% with professional and by 16% with self-managed exercise routine, suggesting that overworking muscles may not be beneficial. There is an average of 26 years between age at onset and age at diagnosis indicating that diagnostic schemes can be improved. In summary our data suggests that permanent muscle weakness has a greater impact on the quality of life of patients than previously anticipated.
periodic paralysis; myopathy; paramyotonia congenita
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a disease linked to the X-chromosome which affects 1 in 3,600-6,000 newborn males. It is manifested by the absence of the dystrophin protein in muscle fibres, which causes progressive damage leading to death in the third decade of life. The only medication so far shown to be effective in delaying the progression of this illness are corticosteroids, which have been shown to increase muscle strength in randomised controlled studies; long-term studies have demonstrated that they prolong walking time and retard the progression of respiratory dysfunction, dilated cardiomyopathy and scoliosis. Several potential drugs are now being investigated. Genetic therapy, involving the insertion of a dystrophin gene through a vector, has proven effective in animals but not humans. Currently under clinical study is Ataluren, a molecule that binds with ribosomes and may allow the insertion of an aminoacid in the premature termination codon, and exon-skipping, which binds with RNA and excludes specific sites of RNA splicing, producing a dystrophin that is smaller but functional. There are also studies attempting to modulate other muscular proteins, such as myostatin and utrophin, to reduce symptoms. This paper does not address cardiomyopathy treatment in DMD patients.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; drug treatment; clinical
Cardiomyopathy is an almost universal finding in boys affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Myocardial changes, as a result of the lack of dystrophin, consist of cell membrane degradation, interstitial inflammation, fatty replacement and fibrosis.
Dystrophinopathic cardiomyopathy generally starts as a preclinical or intermediate stage, with evolution toward advanced stages characterized by ventricle enlargement but also by symptoms and signs of heart failure (dyspnoea, peripheral edema and liver enlargement). However in few patients the dilation could be the first manifestation of the heart involvement.
The ability to detect overt cardiomyopathy increases with age, such that more than 80% of boys older than 18 years will have abnormal systolic function.
Several drugs have been employed with the aim to contrast the evolution of cardiomyopathy toward stages of severe congestive heart failure. A review of cardiac treatment in DMD and personal experience are reported and discussed.
Dystrophinopathic cardiomyopathy; deflazacort; ACE-inhibitors
In 1988, we familiarised ourselves at Poitiers with the concept of operative treatment of the lower limbs and the spine in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients which Yves Rideau and his collaborators (1, 2) had developed there in the early 1980s. Thereupon, we immediately established the techniques at our home universities, first at the Technische Universität Aachen and, from 1999 on, at the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Germany. Since then, we have applied the technique to more than 500 DMD patients in total by performing more than 800 operations on the lower limbs and/or spine. In support of findings reported by Professor Rideau in this issue (3) we observed that, where patients are still ambulatory at the time of operation, the operation delays the point at which patients become wheelchair-bound by about two years. Likewise, patients receiving this treatment were/are also able to perform the Gowers' manoeuvre for around two years longer (4-6).
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; prophylactic surgery; prevention of scoliosis
"In never considering neuromuscular disease to be untreatable, Yves Rideau has found ways to ameliorate every aspect of these conditions. His work has resulted in immeasurably enhancing the quality of life of his patients". This dedication included into the Guide to Evaluation in Management of Neuromuscular Diseases, 1999, made by a coworker who studied in Poitiers from 1981 to 1983, summarizes the content of this paper.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; rehabilitation; surgery; ventilation
Recently we reported a cytoplasmic sodium overload to cause a severe osmotic oedema in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Our results suggested that this dual overload of sodium ions and water precedes the dystrophic process and persists until fatty muscle degeneration is complete. The present paper addresses the questions as to whether these overloads are important for the pathogenesis of the disease, and if so, whether they can be treated. As a first step, we investigated the effects of various diuretic drugs on a cell model of DMD, i.e. rat diaphragm strips previously exposed to amphotericin B. We found that both carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and aldosterone antagonists were able to repolarise depolarised muscle fibres. Since carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are known to have acidifying effects and this might be detrimental to the ventilation of DMD patients, we mainly concentrated on the modern spironolactone derivative, eplerenone. This drug had a very high repolarizing power, the parameter considered by us as being most relevant for a beneficial effect. In a pilot study we administered this drug to a 22-yr-old female DMD patient who was bound to an electric wheelchair and has had no corticosteroid therapy before. Eplerenone decreased both cytoplasmic sodium and water overload and increased muscle strength and mobility. We conclude that eplerenone has beneficial effects on DMD muscle. In our opinion the cytoplasmic oedema is cytotoxic and should be treated before fatty degeneration takes place.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; eplerenone; cytotoxic oedema