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Neuron. 2005 Dec 22;48(6):885-96.

Spinal muscular atrophy: a deficiency in a ubiquitous protein; a motor neuron-specific disease.

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Department of Neurology, Center for Motor Neuron Biology and Disease, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease in humans and the most common genetic cause of infant mortality. The disease results in motor neuron loss and skeletal muscle atrophy. Despite a range of disease phenotypes, SMA is caused by mutations in a single gene, the Survival of Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. Recent advances have shed light on functions of the protein product of this gene and the pathophysiology of the disease, yet, fundamental questions remain. This review attempts to highlight some of the recent advances made in the understanding of the disease and how loss of the ubiquitously expressed survival of motor neurons (SMN) protein results in the SMA phenotype. Answers to some of the questions raised may ultimately result in a viable treatment for SMA.

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