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1.  The 6 Minute Walk Test and Performance of Upper Limb in Ambulant Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Boys 
PLoS Currents  2014;
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC4182715  PMID: 25271887
3.  Affinity proteomics within rare diseases: a BIO-NMD study for blood biomarkers of muscular dystrophies 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2014;6(7):918-936.
Despite the recent progress in the broad-scaled analysis of proteins in body fluids, there is still a lack in protein profiling approaches for biomarkers of rare diseases. Scarcity of samples is the main obstacle hindering attempts to apply discovery driven protein profiling in rare diseases. We addressed this challenge by combining samples collected within the BIO-NMD consortium from four geographically dispersed clinical sites to identify protein markers associated with muscular dystrophy using an antibody bead array platform with 384 antibodies. Based on concordance in statistical significance and confirmatory results obtained from analysis of both serum and plasma, we identified eleven proteins associated with muscular dystrophy, among which four proteins were elevated in blood from muscular dystrophy patients: carbonic anhydrase III (CA3) and myosin light chain 3 (MYL3), both specifically expressed in slow-twitch muscle fibers and mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase 2 (MDH2) and electron transfer flavoprotein A (ETFA). Using age-matched sub-cohorts, 9 protein profiles correlating with disease progression and severity were identified, which hold promise for the development of new clinical tools for management of dystrophinopathies.
PMCID: PMC4119355  PMID: 24920607
antibody-based proteomics; disease severity biomarkers; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; plasma profilling; protein profiling
4.  Clinical and molecular cross-sectional study of a cohort of adult type III spinal muscular atrophy patients: clues from a biomarker study 
Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations of the SMN1 gene. Based on severity, three forms of SMA are recognized (types I–III). All patients usually have 2–4 copies of a highly homologous gene (SMN2), which produces insufficient levels of functional survival motor neuron (SMN) protein due to the alternative splicing of exon 7. The availability of potential candidates to the treatment of SMA has raised a number of issues, including the availability of biomarkers. This study was aimed at evaluating whether the quantification of SMN2 products in peripheral blood is a suitable biomarker for SMA. Forty-five adult type III patients were evaluated by Manual Muscle Testing, North Star Ambulatory Assessment scale, 6-min walk test, myometry, forced vital capacity, and dual X-ray absorptiometry. Molecular assessments included SMN2 copy number, levels of full-length SMN2 (SMN2-fl) transcripts and those lacking exon 7 and SMN protein. Clinical outcome measures strongly correlated to each other. Lean body mass correlated inversely with years from diagnosis and with several aspects of motor performance. SMN2 copy number and SMN protein levels were not associated with motor performance or transcript levels. SMN2-fl levels correlated with motor performance in ambulant patients. Our results indicate that SMN2-fl levels correlate with motor performance only in patients preserving higher levels of motor function, whereas motor performance was strongly influenced by disease duration and lean body mass. If not taken into account, the confounding effect of disease duration may impair the identification of potential SMA biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3658179  PMID: 23073312
spinal muscular atrophy; SMN; biomarker; outcome measure; real-time PCR
5.  6 Minute Walk Test in Duchenne MD Patients with Different Mutations: 12 Month Changes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83400.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3885414  PMID: 24421885
6.  Atrial fibrillation burden in Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 patients implanted with dual chamber pacemaker: the efficacy of the overdrive atrial algorithm at 2 year follow-up 
Acta Myologica  2013;32(3):142-147.
The role that atrial pacing therapy plays on the atrial fibrillation (AF) burden is still unclear. Aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of the atrial preference pacing algorithm on AF burden in patients affected by Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 (DM1) followed for a long follow up period. Sixty DM1 patients were -implanted with a dual chamber pacemaker (PM) for first degree or symptomatic type 1/type 2 second degree atrio-ventricular blocks- were followed for 2-years after implantation, by periodical examination. After 1 month of stabilization, they were randomized into two groups: 1) Patients implanted with conventional dual-chamber pacing mode (DDDR group) and 2) Patients implanted with DDDR plus Atrial Preference Pacing (APP) algorithm (APP ON group).
The results showed that atrial tachycardia (AT)/AF burden was significantly reduced at 1 year follow up in the APP ON group (2122 ± 428 minutes vs 4127 ± 388 minutes, P = 0.03), with a further reduction at the end of the 2 year follow up period (4652 ± 348 minutes vs 7564 ± 638 minutes, P = 0.005).
The data here reported show that the APP is an efficient algorithm to reduce AT/AF burden in DM1 patients implanted with dual chamber pacemaker.
PMCID: PMC4006281  PMID: 24803841
Atrial overdrive algorithm; atrial preference pacing; supraventricular tachyarrhythmias; Myotonic Dystrophy type 1
8.  “I have got something positive out of this situation”: psychological benefits of caregiving in relatives of young people with muscular dystrophy 
Journal of Neurology  2013;261(1):188-195.
This paper focuses on the psychological benefits of caregiving in key relatives of patients with muscular dystrophies (MD), a group of rare diseases characterized by progressive weakness and restriction of the patient’s functional abilities. We describe whether relatives perceived caregiving to be a positive experience and test whether relatives’ perceptions vary in relation to their view of the patient as a valued person, the degree of involvement in care, and the level of support provided by social network and professionals. The study sample included 502 key relatives of patients aged 4–25 years, suffering from Duchenne, Becker, or limb-girdle MD, in treatment for at least 6 months to one of the eight participating centers, living with at least one relative aged 18–80 years. Of key relatives, 88 % stated that they had gotten something positive out of the situation, 96 % considered their patients to be sensitive, and 94 % viewed their patients as talented. Positive aspects of caregiving were more recognized by key relatives who were more convinced that the patient was sensitive and who perceived that they received higher level of professional help and psychological social support. These results suggest that most key relatives consider that their caregiving experience has had a positive impact on their lives, despite the practical difficulties of caring for patients with MD. Professionals should help relatives to identify the benefits of caregiving without denying its difficulties. Clinicians themselves should develop positive attitudes towards family involvement in the care of patients with long-term diseases.
PMCID: PMC3895206  PMID: 24202786
Muscular dystrophy; Psychological benefits; Caregiving; Social network; Professional support
9.  Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks: a key service for diagnosis and research on rare diseases 
Several examples have always illustrated how access to large numbers of biospecimens and associated data plays a pivotal role in the identification of disease genes and the development of pharmaceuticals. Hence, allowing researchers to access to significant numbers of quality samples and data, genetic biobanks are a powerful tool in basic, translational and clinical research into rare diseases. Recently demand for well-annotated and properly-preserved specimens is growing at a high rate, and is expected to grow for years to come. The best effective solution to this issue is to enhance the potentialities of well-managed biobanks by building a network.
Here we report a 5-year experience of the Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks (TNGB), a non-profit association of Italian repositories created in 2008 to form a virtually unique catalogue of biospecimens and associated data, which presently lists more than 750 rare genetic defects. The process of TNGB harmonisation has been mainly achieved through the adoption of a unique, centrally coordinated, IT infrastructure, which has enabled (i) standardisation of all the TNGB procedures and activities; (ii) creation of an updated TNGB online catalogue, based on minimal data set and controlled terminologies; (iii) sample access policy managed via a shared request control panel at web portal. TNGB has been engaged in disseminating information on its services into both scientific/biomedical - national and international - contexts, as well as associations of patients and families. Indeed, during the last 5-years national and international scientists extensively used the TNGB with different purposes resulting in more than 250 scientific publications. In addition, since its inception the TNGB is an associated member of the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure and recently joined the EuroBioBank network. Moreover, the involvement of patients and families, leading to the formalization of various agreements between TNGB and Patients’ Associations, has demonstrated how promoting Biobank services can be instrumental in gaining a critical mass of samples essential for research, as well as, raising awareness, trust and interest of the general public in Biobanks. This article focuses on some fundamental aspects of networking and demonstrates how the translational research benefits from a sustained infrastructure.
PMCID: PMC3766640  PMID: 24004821
Biobanking; Networking; Biological resources centre; IT infrastructure; Biological material; Biospecimens; Cryopreservation; Rare diseases; Patients’ associations
10.  Importance of SPP1 genotype as a covariate in clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neurology  2012;79(2):159-162.
To test the effect of the single nucleotide polymorphism −66 T>G (rs28357094) in the osteopontin gene (SPP1) on functional measures over 12 months in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
This study was conducted on a cohort of ambulatory patients with DMD from a network of Italian neuromuscular centers, evaluated longitudinally with the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and the 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) at study entry and after 12 months. Genotype at rs28357094 was determined after completion of the clinical evaluations. Patients were stratified in 2 groups according to a dominant model (TT homozygotes vs TG heterozygotes and GG homozygotes) and clinical data were retrospectively compared between groups.
Eighty patients were selected (age 4.1–19.3 years; mean 8.3 ± 2.7 SD). There were no differences in age or steroid treatment between the 2 subgroups. Paired t test showed a significant difference in both NSAA (p = 0.013) and 6MWT (p = 0.03) between baseline and follow-up after 12 months in patients with DMD carrying the G allele. The difference was not significant in the T subgroup. The analysis of covariance using age and baseline values as covariate and SPP1 genotype as fixed effect showed that these parameters are significantly correlated with the 12-month values.
These data provide evidence of the role of SPP1 genotype as a disease modifier in DMD and support its relevance in the selection of homogeneous groups of patients for future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3390537  PMID: 22744661
11.  Overlapping syndromes in laminopathies: a meta-analysis of the reported literature 
Acta Myologica  2013;32(1):7-17.
Mutations on the LMNA gene are responsible for an heterogeneous group of diseases. Overlapping syndromes related to LMNA gene alterations have been extensively reported. Study scope is to perform a systematic analysis of the overlapping syndromes so far described and to try to correlate the clinical features to the associated genetic alterations. We evaluated all the dominant overlapping syndromes reported by means of a PubMed search and by the analysis of the main databases containing the pathogenic LMNA gene variations and the associated diseases.
Metabolic alterations in association to skeletal and/or cardiac alterations proved to be the most frequent overlap syndrome. Overlapping syndromes are mostly associated to inframe mutations in exons 1, 2, 8 and 9. These data further improve the understanding of the pathogenesis of laminopathies.
PMCID: PMC3665370  PMID: 23853504
Lamin A/C; laminopathies; LMNA overlapping syndromes
12.  Advances in basic and clinical research in laminopathies 
Acta Myologica  2013;32(1):18-22.
Lamins (LMNA) are the main proteins of the nuclear lamina considered to be the ancestors of all intermediate filament proteins. They form complex protein assemblies with integral proteins of the inner nuclear membrane, transcriptional regulators, histones and chromatin modifiers. During recent years, interest in lamins has greatly increased due to the identification of many distinct heritable human disorders associated with lamin mutations. These disorders, collectively termed laminopathies, range from muscular dystrophies to premature aging. They may affect muscle, fat, bone, nerve and skin tissues. The workshop was addressed to understand lamin organization and its roles in nuclear processes, mutations in lamins affecting cell and tissues functions, the biology of the nucleus and laminopathic disease mechanisms, all aspects important for designing future therapies.
PMCID: PMC3665372  PMID: 23853505
LMNA A/C gene; laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy
13.  24 Month Longitudinal Data in Ambulant Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52512.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3543414  PMID: 23326337
14.  Editorial 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(3):169.
PMCID: PMC3631800  PMID: 23620647
15.  On a case of respiratory failure due to diaphragmatic paralysis and dilated cardiomyopathy in a patient with nemaline myopathy 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(3):201-203.
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.
PMCID: PMC3631801  PMID: 23620652
Nemaline myopathy; heart failure; respiratory failure
16.  Increased dispersion of ventricular repolarization in emery dreifuss muscular dystrophy patients 
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is common in patients with Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) and is attributed to the development of life-threatening arrhythmias that occur in the presence of normal left ventricular systolic function. Heterogeneity of ventricular repolarization is considered to provide an electrophysiological substrate for malignant arrhythmias. QTc dispersion (QTc-D) and JTc dispersion (JTc-D) are electrocardiographic parameters indicative of heterogeneity of ventricular repolarization. The aim of our study was to evaluate the heterogeneity of ventricular repolarization in patients with Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy with preserved systolic and diastolic cardiac function
The study involved 36 EDMD patients (age 20±12, 26 M) and 36 healthy subjects used as controls, matched for age and sex. Heart rate, QRS duration, maximum and minimum QT and JT interval, QTc-D and JTc-D measurements were performed.
Compared to the healthy control group, the EDMD group presented increased values of QTc-D (82.7±44.2 vs. 53.1±13.7; P=0,003) and JTc-D (73.6±32.3 vs. 60.4±11.1 ms; P=0.001). No correlation between QTc dispersion and ejection fraction (R=0.2, P=0.3) was found.
Our study showed a significant increase of QTc-D and JTc-D in Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy patients with preserved systolic and diastolic cardiac function.
PMCID: PMC3560603  PMID: 23111739
Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD); sudden cardiac death (SCD); ventricular repolarization; QTc dispersion; JTc dispersion
17.  Right atrial preference pacing algorithm in the prevention of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in myotonic dystrophy type 1 patients: a long term follow-up study 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(2):139-143.
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.
PMCID: PMC3476853  PMID: 23097606
myotonic dystrophy; atrial preference pacing; atrial fibrillation
18.  Improvement of survival in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: retrospective analysis of 835 patients 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(2):121-125.
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.
PMCID: PMC3476854  PMID: 23097603
Duchenne; survival; cardiomyopathy
19.  The heart and cardiac pacing in Steinert disease 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(2):110-116.
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.
PMCID: PMC3476856  PMID: 23097601
myotonic dystrophy type 1; arrhythmias; cardiac pacing
20.  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.
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
21.  Rippling muscle disease and facioscapulohumeral dystrophy-like phenotype in a patient carrying a heterozygous CAV3 T78M mutation and a D4Z4 partial deletion: Further evidence for “double trouble” overlapping syndromes 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(6):534-540.
We report the first case of a heterozygous T78M mutation in the caveolin-3 gene (CAV3) associated with rippling muscle disease and proximal myopathy. The patient displayed also bilateral winged scapula with limited abduction of upper arms and marked asymmetric atrophy of leg muscles shown by magnetic resonance imaging. Immunohistochemistry on the patient’s muscle biopsy demonstrated a reduction of caveolin-3 staining, compatible with the diagnosis of caveolinopathy. Interestingly, consistent with the possible diagnosis of FSHD, the patient carried a 35 kb D4Z4 allele on chromosome 4q35. We discuss the hypothesis that the two genetic mutations may exert a synergistic effect in determining the phenotype observed in this patient.
PMCID: PMC3359497  PMID: 22245016
Rippling muscle disease; Caveolinopathy; Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy; Limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 1C
22.  Treatment of dystrophinopathic cardiomyopathy: review of the literature and personal results 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(1):24-30.
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.
PMCID: PMC3440799  PMID: 22655514
Dystrophinopathic cardiomyopathy; deflazacort; ACE-inhibitors
23.  Genetic counseling in Pompe disease 
Acta Myologica  2011;30(3):179-181.
Pompe disease is caused by glycogen accumulation due to a deficiency of the lysosomal acid alpha-glucosidase enzyme by which it is degraded. It is a rare disease, accounting for 1:40.000 births. It is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait so that a couple presents a recurrent risk of 25% to have a child affected, at each pregnancy. The diagnosis could be achieved by biochemical and/ or molecular testing. Carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis are available when the molecular defect is known.
PMCID: PMC3298105  PMID: 22616199
Pompe disease; genetic counselling; prenatal diagnosis
24.  Cardiac involvement in patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophies 
Acta Myologica  2011;30(3):175-178.
The spinal muscular atrophies (SMAs) include a group of disorders characterized by progressive weakness of the lower motor neurons. Several types of SMAs have been described based on age onset of clinical features: Acute infantile (SMA type I), chronic infantile (SMA type II), chronic juvenile (SMA type III), and adult onset (SMA type IV) forms. The incidence is about 1:6,000 live births with a carrier frequency of 1:40 for the severe form and 1:80 for the juvenile form. The mortality and/or morbidity rates of SMAs are inversely correlated with the age at onset. SMAs are believed to only affect skeletal muscles; however, new data on SMA mice models suggest they may also impact the heart.
Aim of the study was to retrospectively examine the cardiological records of 37 type molecularly confirmed II/III SMA patients, aged 6 to 65 years, in order to evaluate the onset and evolution of the cardiac involvement in these disorders. All patients had a standard ECG and a routine echocardiography. The parameters analysed were the following: Heart rate (HR), PQ interval, PQ segment, Cardiomyopathic Index (ratio QT/PQs), ventricular and supraventricular ectopic beats, pauses ≥ 2,5msec, ventricle diameters, wall and septum thickness, ejection fraction, fiber shortening.
The results showed that HR and the other ECG parameters were within the normal limits except for the Cardiomyopathic Index that was higher than the normal values (2,6-4,2) in 2 patients. Left ventricular systolic function was within the normal limits in all patients. A dilation of the left ventricle without systolic dysfunction was observed in only 2 patients, aged respectively 65 and 63 years; however they were hypertensive and/or affected by coronary artery disease. Data here reported contribute to reassure patients and their clinicians that type II/III SMAs do not present heart dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3298107  PMID: 22616198
Spinal Muscular Atrophies; heart involvement; cardiomyopathy
25.  Persistent HyperCKemia in Athletes 
We compared the effects of exercise on serum levels of creatin kinase (CK) in athletes with persistent hyperCKemia at rest (CK group) and in healthy athletes (control group).
Prospective controlled study.
Eighteen male Caucasian athletes with high serum CK levels at rest (CK between 80 and 150 U/L) and 25 male Caucasian athletes with normal serum CK levels at rest (CK between 10 and 80 U/L)
Main Outcome Measures
Blood samples were collected at rest, 30 minutes, 6 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours after a progressive cycloergometer test to exhaustion. The levels of serum CK and its isoenzymes were measured.
In the control group, serum CK values at rest were normal (48.18 ± 14.14 U/L). After exercise, they increased slightly, though they always remained <80 U/L, decreasing to the rest level after 48 hours. The CK group had serum CK levels at rest higher than normal (116.56 ± 33.30 U/L). Serum CK levels were still outwith the normal range after 48 hours (130.11 ± 46.95 U/L) and 72 hours (116.55 ± 24.84 U/L). Serum CK levels were significantly different in both groups both before and after progressive cycloergometer test to exhaustion.
In athletes with high serum CK levels at rest, serum CK levels remained elevated and had a different kinetics after exercise when compared with healthy athletes.
PMCID: PMC3666463  PMID: 23738242
Hyperckemia; Primitive Myopathy; Muscular Enzymes

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