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Clin Perinatol. 1990 Dec;17(4):845-65.

Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies: genetics, prenatal diagnosis, and future prospects.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


DMD and BMD are now understood at the genetic, biochemical, and molecular levels. At the genetic level, both disorders result from mutations of the X-linked gene encoding dystrophin. At the biochemical level, DMD results from the deficiency of a large protein called dystrophin, whereas BMD results when dystrophin is present, though abnormal in either amount or molecular structure. To date, thousands of patients have been analyzed for mutations of the dystrophin gene in peripheral blood DNA or alterations of the dystrophin protein in muscle tissue. The severity of the clinical phenotype of these patients has been compared with their dystrophin gene mutations and corresponding dystrophin protein alterations, revealing an unexpectedly high degree of correlation. Thus, information derived from the molecular analysis (DNA or protein) of a particular patient provides a "molecular diagnosis," which is highly predictive of the clinical course that patient can be expected to follow. Because molecular diagnoses are independent of the patient's age, they provide a prognosis for the large majority of muscular dystrophy patients even before clinical symptoms of their disease become apparent. Such prognostic molecular diagnoses have proven particularly valuable when the patient is an isolated case, with no family history for the disorder. Prenatal genetic diagnosis of DMD or BMD may involve use of Southern blot or PCR techniques to search for a deletion in the DNA of at-risk fetuses or more complicated family linkage studies using intragenic and flanking RFLPs. More recently, assay of dystrophin content in fetal skeletal or cardiac muscle from at-risk abortuses has been accomplished, allowing definitive discrimination of affected and normal fetuses in cases in which deletion analyses and family DNA studies were equivocal. In utero fetal skeletal muscle biopsy for dystrophin protein assay has actually been accomplished in at least one at-risk pregnancy in which family DNA studies were uninformative. Dystrophin was present in skeletal muscle from this 20-week-old male fetus, and the pregnancy continued, resulting in the term birth of a healthy male infant. The future holds exciting opportunities for neonatal screening and treatment of these devastating neuromuscular diseases.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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