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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.  Genotype-phenotype correlation in Pompe disease, a step forward 
Pompe’s disease is a progressive myopathy caused by mutations in the lysosomal enzyme acid alphaglucosidase gene (GAA). A wide clinical variability occurs also in patients sharing the same GAA mutations, even within the same family.
For a large series of GSDII patients we collected some clinical data as age of onset of the disease, presence or absence of muscular pain, Walton score, 6-Minute Walking Test, Vital Capacity, and Creatine Kinase. DNA was extracted and tested for GAA mutations and some genetic polymorphisms able to influence muscle properties (ACE, ACTN3, AGT and PPARα genes).
We compared the polymorphisms analyzed in groups of patients with Pompe disease clustered for their homogeneous genotype.
We have been able to identify four subgroups of patients completely homogeneous for their genotype, and two groups homogeneous as far as the second mutation is defined “very severe” or “potentially less severe”. When disease free life was studied we observed a high significant difference between groups. The DD genotype in the ACE gene and the XX genotype in the ACTN3 gene were significantly associated to an earlier age of onset of the disease. The ACE DD genotype was also associated to the presence of muscle pain.
We demonstrate that ACE and ACTN3 polymorphisms are genetic factors able to modulate the clinical phenotype of patients affected with Pompe disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0102-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249737  PMID: 25103075
Glycogen storage disease type II; Genetic polymorphisms; Modifier genes; GAA; ACE; ACTN3
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
7.  Undiagnosed myopathy before surgery and safe anaesthesia table 
Acta Myologica  2013;32(2):100-105.
Patients with muscle pathology are a challenge for anaesthesiologists because of possible life-threatening general anaesthesia complications. A review of the current medical literature on the issue clearly indicates that increasing awareness by anaesthesiologists in recent years has led to a reduction in the occurrence of adverse events in patients with diagnostically well-defined muscle disease. On the other hand, the current emerging aspect is that the great majority of complications concern subjects with clinically non-overt (silent to mildly symptomatic) and thus undiagnosed myopathy. With a view to improving prevention of possible critical anaesthesia complications in such patients, we present a "Safe Anaesthesia Table", listing both the anaesthetic drugs to be avoided and those considered harmless for myopathic patients, irrespective of age and type of pathology. In addition, a brief outline about the clinical aspects suggestive of a possible muscle pathology is also provided. Using "safe drugs" during routine surgical procedures in subjects with suspected undiagnosed myopathy will enable the anaesthesiologist to avoid delaying surgery, while protecting them from anaesthesia complications. By following this approach the presumed myopathy can be properly investigated after surgery.
PMCID: PMC3866898  PMID: 24399867
anaesthesia complications; undiagnosed myopathy; safe anaesthesia; hyperCKemia
8.  Large scale genotype–phenotype analyses indicate that novel prognostic tools are required for families with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 
Brain  2013;136(11):3408-3417.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy has been genetically linked to reduced numbers (≤8) of D4Z4 repeats at 4q35 combined with 4A(159/161/168) DUX4 polyadenylation signal haplotype. However, we have recently reported that 1.3% of healthy individuals carry this molecular signature and 19% of subjects affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy do not carry alleles with eight or fewer D4Z4 repeats. Therefore, prognosis for subjects carrying or at risk of carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles has become more complicated. To test for additional prognostic factors, we measured the degree of motor impairment in a large group of patients affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and their relatives who are carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles. The clinical expression of motor impairment was assessed in 530 subjects, 163 probands and 367 relatives, from 176 unrelated families according to a standardized clinical score. The associations between clinical severity and size of D4Z4 allele, degree of kinship, gender, age and 4q haplotype were evaluated. Overall, 32.2% of relatives did not display any muscle functional impairment. This phenotype was influenced by the degree of relation with proband, because 47.1% of second- through fifth-degree relatives were unaffected, whereas only 27.5% of first-degree family members did not show motor impairment. The estimated risk of developing motor impairment by age 50 for relatives carrying a D4Z4 reduced allele with 1–3 repeats or 4–8 repeats was 88.7% and 55%, respectively. Male relatives had a mean score significantly higher than females (5.4 versus 4.0, P = 0.003). No 4q haplotype was exclusively associated with the presence of disease. In 13% of families in which D4Z4 alleles with 4–8 repeats segregate, the diagnosis of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy was reported only in one generation. In conclusion, this large-scale analysis provides further information that should be taken into account when counselling families in which a reduced allele with 4–8 D4Z4 repeats segregates. In addition, the reduced expression of disease observed in distant relatives suggests that a family’s genetic background plays a role in the occurrence of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. These results indicate that the identification of new susceptibility factors for this disease will require an accurate classification of families.
PMCID: PMC3808686  PMID: 24030947
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; D4Z4 reduced allele; genotype–phenotype correlations; penetrance; disease expression
9.  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.  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
12.  Quantitative muscle strength assessment in duchenne muscular dystrophy: longitudinal study and correlation with functional measures 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:91.
The aim of this study was to perform a longitudinal assessment using Quantitative Muscle Testing (QMT) in a cohort of ambulant boys affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and to correlate the results of QMT with functional measures. This study is to date the most thorough long-term evaluation of QMT in a cohort of DMD patients correlated with other measures, such as the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) or thee 6-min walk test (6MWT).
This is a single centre, prospective, non-randomised, study assessing QMT using the Kin Com® 125 machine in a study cohort of 28 ambulant DMD boys, aged 5 to 12 years. This cohort was assessed longitudinally over a 12 months period of time with 3 monthly assessments for QMT and with assessment of functional abilities, using the NSAA and the 6MWT at baseline and at 12 months only. QMT was also used in a control group of 13 healthy age-matched boys examined at baseline and at 12 months.
There was an increase in QMT over 12 months in boys below the age of 7.5 years while in boys above the age of 7.5 years, QMT showed a significant decrease. All the average one-year changes were significantly different than those experienced by healthy controls. We also found a good correlation between quantitative tests and the other measures that was more obvious in the stronger children.
Our longitudinal data using QMT in a cohort of DMD patients suggest that this could be used as an additional tool to monitor changes, providing additional information on segmental strength.
PMCID: PMC3482602  PMID: 22974002
13.  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3459813  PMID: 22894145
Dystrophinopathy; Female carriers; X-inactivation; Transcriptional balancing
14.  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

Results 1-14 (14)