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1.  The 6 Minute Walk Test and Performance of Upper Limb in Ambulant Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Boys 
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.md.a93d9904d57dcb08936f2ea89bca6fe6.
The Performance of Upper Limb (PUL) test was specifically developed for the assessment of upper limbs in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The first published data have shown that early signs of involvement can also be found in ambulant DMD boys. The aim of this longitudinal Italian multicentric study was to evaluate the correlation between the 6 Minute Walk Test (6MWT) and the PUL in ambulant DMD boys. Both 6MWT and PUL were administered to 164 ambulant DMD boys of age between 5.0 and 16.17 years (mean 8.82). The 6 minute walk distance (6MWD) ranged between 118 and 557 (mean: 376.38, SD: 90.59). The PUL total scores ranged between 52 and 74 (mean: 70.74, SD: 4.66). The correlation between the two measures was 0.499. The scores on the PUL largely reflect the overall impairment observed on the 6MWT but the correlation was not linear. The use of the PUL appeared to be less relevant in the very strong patients with 6MWD above 400 meters, who, with few exceptions had near full scores. In patients with lower 6MWD the severity of upper limb involvement was more variable and could not always be predicted by the 6MWD value or by the use of steroids. Our results confirm that upper limb involvement can already be found in DMD boys even in the ambulant phase.
doi:10.1371/currents.md.a93d9904d57dcb08936f2ea89bca6fe6
PMCID: PMC4208936  PMID: 25642376
2.  Long Term Natural History Data in Ambulant Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: 36-Month Changes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108205.
The 6 minute walk test has been recently chosen as the primary outcome measure in international multicenter clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy ambulant patients. The aim of the study was to assess the spectrum of changes at 3 years in the individual measures, their correlation with steroid treatment, age and 6 minute walk test values at baseline. Ninety-six patients from 11 centers were assessed at baseline and 12, 24 and 36 months after baseline using the 6 minute walk test and the North Star Ambulatory Assessment. Three boys (3%) lost the ability to perform the 6 minute walk test within 12 months, another 13 between 12 and 24 months (14%) and 11 between 24 and 36 months (12%). The 6 minute walk test showed an average overall decline of −15.8 (SD 77.3) m at 12 months, of −58.9 (SD 125.7) m at 24 months and −104.22 (SD 146.2) m at 36 months. The changes were significantly different in the two baseline age groups and according to the baseline 6 minute walk test values (below and above 350 m) (p<0.001). The changes were also significantly different according to steroid treatment (p = 0.01). Similar findings were found for the North Star Ambulatory Assessment. These are the first 36 month longitudinal data using the 6 minute walk test and North Star Ambulatory Assessment in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Our findings will help not only to have a better idea of the progression of the disorder but also provide reference data that can be used to compare with the results of the long term extension studies that are becoming available.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108205
PMCID: PMC4182715  PMID: 25271887
3.  6 Minute Walk Test in Duchenne MD Patients with Different Mutations: 12 Month Changes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83400.
Objective
In the last few years some of the therapeutical approaches for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are specifically targeting distinct groups of mutations, such as deletions eligible for skipping of individual exons. The aim of this observational study was to establish whether patients with distinct groups of mutations have different profiles of changes on the 6 minute walk test (6MWT) over a 12 month period.
Methods
The 6MWT was performed in 191 ambulant DMD boys at baseline and 12 months later. The results were analysed using a test for heterogeneity in order to establish possible differences among different types of mutations (deletions, duplications, point mutations) and among subgroups of deletions eligible to skip individual exons.
Results
At baseline the 6MWD ranged between 180 and 560,80 metres (mean 378,06, SD 74,13). The 12 month changes ranged between −325 and 175 (mean −10.8 meters, SD 69.2). Although boys with duplications had better results than those with the other types of mutations, the difference was not significant.
Similarly, boys eligible for skipping of the exon 44 had better baseline results and less drastic changes than those eligible for skipping exon 45 or 53, but the difference was not significant.
Conclusions
even if there are some differences among subgroups, the mean 12 month changes in each subgroup were all within a narrow Range: from the mean of the whole DMD cohort. This information will be of help at the time of designing clinical trials with small numbers of eligible patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083400
PMCID: PMC3885414  PMID: 24421885
5.  Frataxin mRNA Isoforms in FRDA Patients and Normal Subjects: Effect of Tocotrienol Supplementation 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:276808.
Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is caused by deficient expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin involved in the formation of iron-sulphur complexes and by consequent oxidative stress. We analysed low-dose tocotrienol supplementation effects on the expression of the three splice variant isoforms (FXN-1, FXN-2, and FXN-3) in mononuclear blood cells of FRDA patients and healthy subjects. In FRDA patients, tocotrienol leads to a specific and significant increase of FXN-3 expression while not affecting FXN-1 and FXN-2 expression. Since no structural and functional details were available for FNX-2 and FXN-3, 3D models were built. FXN-1, the canonical isoform, was then docked on the human iron-sulphur complex, and functional interactions were computed; when FXN-1 was replaced by FXN-2 or FNX-3, we found that the interactions were maintained, thus suggesting a possible biological role for both isoforms in human cells. Finally, in order to evaluate whether tocotrienol enhancement of FXN-3 was mediated by an increase in peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARG), PPARG expression was evaluated. At a low dose of tocotrienol, the increase of FXN-3 expression appeared to be independent of PPARG expression. Our data show that it is possible to modulate the mRNA expression of the minor frataxin isoforms and that they may have a functional role.
doi:10.1155/2013/276808
PMCID: PMC3794619  PMID: 24175286
6.  24 Month Longitudinal Data in Ambulant Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52512.
Objectives
The aim of the study was i) to assess the spectrum of changes over 24 months in ambulant boys affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy, ii) to establish the difference between the first and the second year results and iii) to identify possible early markers of loss of ambulation.
Methods
One hundred and thirteen patients (age range 4.1–17, mean 8.2) fulfilled the inclusion criteria, 67 of the 113 were on daily and 40 on intermittent steroids, while 6 were not on steroids. All were assessed using the 6 Minute Walk Test (6MWT), the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and timed test.
Results
On the 6MWT there was an average overall decline of −22.7 (SD 81.0) in the first year and of −64.7 (SD 123.1) in the second year. On the NSAA the average overall decline was of −1.86 (SD 4.21) in the first year and of −2.98 (SD 5.19) in the second year. Fourteen children lost ambulation, one in the first year and the other 13 in the second year of the study. A distance of at least 330 meters on the 6MWT, or a NSAA score of 18 at baseline reduced significantly the risk of losing ambulation within 2 years.
Conclusions
These results can be of help at the time of using inclusion criteria for a study in ambulant patients in order to minimize the risk of patients who may lose ambulation within the time of the trial.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052512
PMCID: PMC3543414  PMID: 23326337
7.  Genetic characterization in symptomatic female DMD carriers: lack of relationship between X-inactivation, transcriptional DMD allele balancing and phenotype 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:73.
Background
Although Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, X-linked recessive myopathies, predominantly affect males, a clinically significant proportion of females manifesting symptoms have also been reported. They represent an heterogeneous group characterized by variable degrees of muscle weakness and/or cardiac involvement. Though preferential inactivation of the normal X chromosome has long been considered the principal mechanism behind disease manifestation in these females, supporting evidence is controversial.
Methods
Eighteen females showing a mosaic pattern of dystrophin expression on muscle biopsy were recruited and classified as symptomatic (7) or asymptomatic (11), based on the presence or absence of muscle weakness. The causative DMD gene mutations were identified in all cases, and the X-inactivation pattern was assessed in muscle DNA. Transcriptional analysis in muscles was performed in all females, and relative quantification of wild-type and mutated transcripts was also performed in 9 carriers. Dystrophin protein was quantified by immunoblotting in 2 females.
Results
The study highlighted a lack of relationship between dystrophic phenotype and X-inactivation pattern in females; skewed X-inactivation was found in 2 out of 6 symptomatic carriers and in 5 out of 11 asymptomatic carriers. All females were characterized by biallelic transcription, but no association was found between X-inactivation pattern and allele transcriptional balancing. Either a prevalence of wild-type transcript or equal proportions of wild-type and mutated RNAs was observed in both symptomatic and asymptomatic females. Moreover, very similar levels of total and wild-type transcripts were identified in the two groups of carriers.
Conclusions
This is the first study deeply exploring the DMD transcriptional behaviour in a cohort of female carriers. Notably, no relationship between X-inactivation pattern and transcriptional behaviour of DMD gene was observed, suggesting that the two mechanisms are regulated independently. Moreover, neither the total DMD transcript level, nor the relative proportion of the wild-type transcript do correlate with the symptomatic phenotype.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-73
PMCID: PMC3459813  PMID: 22894145
Dystrophinopathy; Female carriers; X-inactivation; Transcriptional balancing
8.  The empowerment of translational research: lessons from laminopathies 
The need for a collaborative approach to complex inherited diseases collectively referred to as laminopathies, encouraged Italian researchers, geneticists, physicians and patients to join in the Italian Network for Laminopathies, in 2009. Here, we highlight the advantages and added value of such a multidisciplinary effort to understand pathogenesis, clinical aspects and try to find a cure for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Mandibuloacral dysplasia, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria and forms of lamin-linked cardiomyopathy, neuropathy and lipodystrophy.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-37
PMCID: PMC3458975  PMID: 22691392
Laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy; Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Conduction Defects; Mandibuloacral Dysplasia; Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Type 2; Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome; Rare Diseases; Networking activity; interdisciplinary approach to diseases
9.  SMN transcript levels in leukocytes of SMA patients determined by absolute real-time PCR 
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by homozygous mutations of the SMN1 gene. Three forms of SMA are recognized (type I–III) on the basis of clinical severity. All patients have at least one or more (usually 2–4) copies of a highly homologous gene (SMN2), which produces insufficient levels of functional SMN protein, because of alternative splicing of exon 7. Recently, evidence has been provided that SMN2 expression can be enhanced by pharmacological treatment. However, no reliable biomarkers are available to test the molecular efficacy of the treatments. At present, the only potential biomarker is the dosage of SMN products in peripheral blood. However, the demonstration that SMN full-length (SMN-fl) transcript levels are reduced in leukocytes of patients compared with controls remains elusive (except for type I). We have developed a novel assay based on absolute real-time PCR, which allows the quantification of SMN1-fl/SMN2-fl transcripts. For the first time, we have shown that SMN-fl levels are reduced in leukocytes of type II–III patients compared with controls. We also found that transcript levels are related to clinical severity as in type III patients SMN2-fl levels are significantly higher compared with type II and directly correlated with functional ability in type II patients and with age of onset in type III patients. Moreover, in haploidentical siblings with discordant phenotype, the less severely affected individuals showed significantly higher transcript levels. Our study shows that SMN2-fl dosage in leukocytes can be considered a reliable biomarker and can provide the rationale for SMN dosage in clinical trials.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.116
PMCID: PMC2987170  PMID: 19603064
spinal muscular atrophy; real-time PCR; biomarker; SMN; transcripts

Results 1-9 (9)