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Zhonghua Er Ke Za Zhi. 2013 Feb;51(2):130-5.

[Clinical, pathological and molecular biological characteristics of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episode in children].

[Article in Chinese]

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Department of Pediatrics, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing 100034, China.



To delineate the characteristics of the clinical manifestation, pathology of skeletal muscle and gene mutations of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episode (MELAS) in children.


The clinical manifestation, laboratorial data, brain images, muscle pathology and mitochondrial gene mutations were analyzed in 24 patients with MELAS who were diagnosed in Department of Pediatrics, Peking University First Hospital. Their prognosis was evaluated by following up.


Symptoms of central nervous system such as stroke-like episodes, vomiting, convulsion and headache were present in all the 24 cases. Nine cases had the symptoms of myopathy. Twenty cases had developmental delay. Short stature, being thin and hairy was very common in these cases. Serum lactate level increased in all the cases, pyruvate increased in 17 cases. Elevated CSF lactate was found in 2 cases. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed on 24 cases, out of them 23 were abnormal. The lesions mainly involved cerebral lobes. Occipital lobe was the most common site of lesions. Computed tomography (CT) was performed on 13 cases, low density lesions were present in 10 cases, basal ganglia calcifications in 5 cases. Muscle biopsy was performed on 8 cases, ragged-red fibers (RRF) were found in 4/8 cases, and abnormal accumulation of mitochondria were found in 3/8 cases. The mtDNA gene mutational analysis showed A3243G mutation in these patients. The mutation rates varied from 11.6% to 75.0%. The same mutation were found in 4/5 mothers who had the genetic tests, and the mutation rates of the mothers varied from 15.0% to 23.6%. The clinical information of 11 cases was available through recent following up. Three cases died, the others had some degrees of mental retardation.


Children with MELAS had various clinical manifestations. Central nervous system and skeletal muscle were usually involved. Short stature and hypertrichosis were common signs. The prognosis of this disease was disappointing. mtDNA A3243G was the most common mutation in MELAS. Fully understanding the characteristics of its clinical manifestation, laboratory tests, brain image, muscle pathology and molecular features can be helpful to the early diagnosis and treatment.

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