This article provides an overview of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and other inherited neuropathies. These disorders encompass a broad spectrum with variable motor, sensory, autonomic, and other organ system involvement. Considerable overlap exists, both phenotypically and genetically, among these separate categories, all eventually exhibiting axonal injury and neurologic impairment. Depending on the specific neural and non-neural localizations, patients experience varying morbidity and mortality. Neurologic evaluations, including neurophysiologic testing, can help diagnose and predict patient disabilities. Diagnosis is often complex, especially when genetic and acquired components overlap.
Next-generation sequencing has greatly improved genetic diagnosis, with many third-party reimbursement parties now embracing phenotype-based panel evaluations. Through the advent of comprehensive gene panels, symptoms previously labeled as idiopathic or atypical now have a better chance to receive a specific diagnosis. A definitive molecular diagnosis affords patients improved care and counsel. The new classification scheme for inherited neuropathies emphasizes the causal gene names. A specific genetic diagnosis is important as considerable advances are being made in gene-specific therapeutics. Emerging therapeutic approaches include small molecule chaperones, antisense oligonucleotides, RNA interference, and viral gene delivery therapies. New therapies for hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis and Fabry disease are discussed.
Comprehensive genetic testing through a next-generation sequencing approach is simplifying diagnostic algorithms and affords significantly improved decision-making processes in neuropathy care. Genetic diagnosis is essential for pathogenic understanding and for gene therapy development. Gene-targeted therapies have begun entering the clinic. Currently, for most inherited neuropathy categories, specific symptomatic management and family counseling remain the mainstays of therapy.