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Future Neurol. 2014 Jan 1;9(1):49-65.

Neurodegeneration in spinal muscular atrophy: from disease phenotype and animal models to therapeutic strategies and beyond.

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1
Department of Pathology & Cell Biology, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA ; Department of Neurology, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA ; Center for Motor Neuron Biology & Disease, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.
2
Department of Neurology, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA ; Center for Motor Neuron Biology & Disease, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA ; Department of Pediatrics, 630 West 168th Street, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.

Abstract

Of the numerous inherited diseases known to afflict the pediatric population, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is among the most common. It has an incidence of approximately one in 10,000 newborns and a carrier frequency of one in 50. Despite its relatively high incidence, SMA remains somewhat obscure among the many neurodegenerative diseases that affect humans. Nevertheless, the last two decades have witnessed remarkable progress in our understanding of the pathology, underlying biology and especially the molecular genetics of SMA. This has led to a genuine expectation within the scientific community that a robust treatment will be available to patients before the end of the decade. The progress made in our understanding of SMA and, therefore, towards a viable therapy for affected individuals is in large measure a consequence of the simple yet fascinating genetics of the disease. Nevertheless, important questions remain. Addressing these questions promises not only to accelerate the march towards a cure for SMA, but also to uncover novel therapies for related neurodegenerative disorders. This review discusses our current understanding of SMA, considers the challenges ahead, describes existing treatment options and highlights state-of-the-art research being conducted as a means to a better, safer and more effective treatment for the disease.

KEYWORDS:

animal models; motor neuron; neurodegeneration; spinal muscular atrophy; survival motor neuron

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