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Med Sci (Paris). 2015 Nov;31 Spec No 3:20-7. doi: 10.1051/medsci/201531s306. Epub 2015 Nov 6.

[GNE myopathy].

[Article in French]

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Praticien hospitalier, APHP, Hôpital Marin, Hendaye. Centre de Référence GNMH, Chargé de Mission, FILNEMUS, Marseille, France.
Praticien hospitalier, Institut de MyologieCHU Paris-GH La Pitié Salpêtrière, Centre de Référence de Pathologie Neuromusculaire Paris Est, France.


GNE myopathy is a rare neuromuscular disease whose description is fairly recent. It predominantly affects the adult population and is an inherited autosomal recessive disorder. Although universal and ubiquitous, GNE myopathy prevails in the Jewish community of Persian origin, living in Iran, Israel or in the United States. This condition has also been reported in great number in populations of far-East Asia (Japan and neighboring countries) and, closer to France, in Bulgaria. GNE myopathy causes muscle weakness in the extremities (distal myopathy), affecting initially and predominantly foot flexor muscles. The generic term of GNE myopathy is now fully accepted and encompasses two previously described entities: the quadriceps sparing myopathy, (also referred to as the autosomal recessive form of inclusion body myopathy (hIBM) and the Nonaka type distal myopathy (or distal myopathy with rimmed vacuoles DMRV). This myopathy is due to mutations in the GNE gene encoding a bifunctional enzyme, the UDP-N-acetylglucosamine-2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase. This enzyme plays a role at two levels in the metabolic pathway leading to the synthesis of sialic acid. Sialic acid, also known as N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac or NANA), is a monosaccharide essential to other protein or lipid molecules requiring sugar residues on their surface in order to function efficiently. GNE myopathy is characterized by histological lesions (rimmed vacuoles) within muscle fibers. They are fairly typical in a suggestive context, but non-specific and inconsistent from one muscle to another. The diagnosis of GNE myopathy is essentially based on clinical clues, including muscle imaging, and is confirmed by genetic studies. If promising therapeutic trials are being developed to compensate for this recently unveiled metabolic defect, the treatment of this myopathy remains purely supportive to date.

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