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Folia Morphol (Warsz). 2011 May;70(2):121-9.

Muscle pathology in myotonic dystrophy: light and electron microscopic investigation in eighteen patients.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Medical University of Warsaw, Poland.


Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is the most common muscular dystrophy in adults. Two known genetic subtypes include DM1 (myotonic dystrophy type 1) and DM2 (myotonic dystrophy type 2). Genetic testing is considered as the only reliable diagnostic criterion in myotonic dystrophies. Relatively little is known about DM1 and DM2 myopathology. Thus, the aim of our study was to characterise light and electron microscopic features of DM1 and DM2 in patients with genetically proven types of the disease. We studied 3 DM1 cases and 15 DM2 cases from which muscle biopsies were taken for diagnostic purposes during the period from 1973 to 2006, before genetic testing became available at our hospital. The DM1 group included 3 males (age at biopsy 15-19). The DM2 group included 15 patients (5 men and 10 women, age at biopsy 26-60). The preferential type 1 fibre atrophy was seen in all three DM1 cases in light microscopy, and substantial central nucleation was present in two biopsies. Electron microscopy revealed central nuclei in all three examined muscle biopsies. No other structural or degenerative changes were detected, probably due to the young age of our patients. Central nucleation, prevalence of type 2 muscle fibres, and the presence of pyknotic nuclear clumps were observed in DM2 patients in light microscopy. Among the ultrastructural abnormalities observed in our DM2 group, the presence of internal nuclei, severely atrophied muscle fibres, and lipofuscin accumulation were consistent findings. In addition, a variety of ultrastructural abnormalities were identified by us in DM2. It appears that no single ultrastructural abnormality is characteristic for the DM2 muscle pathology. It seems, however, that certain constellations of morphological changes might be indicative of certain types of myotonic dystrophy.

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