This article discusses the foundational concepts of genetic treatment strategies employed in neuromuscular medicine, as well as the importance of genetic testing as a requirement for applying gene-based therapy.
Gene therapies have become a reality for several neuromuscular disorders. Exon-skipping and (in Europe) ribosomal read-through approaches are currently available to a subset of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Microdystrophin gene replacement has shown promise and is nearing the final stages of clinical trials. Numerous gene-based therapies for other muscular dystrophies and congenital myopathies are progressing toward approval as well.
Muscular dystrophies and congenital myopathies are a heterogenous group of hereditary muscle disorders. Confirming a diagnosis with genetic testing is not only critical for guiding management, but also an actual prerequisite for current and future gene therapies. Recessive loss-of-function or dominant haploinsufficiency disorders may be treated with gene replacement strategies, whereas dominant negative and toxic gain-of-function disorders are best addressed with a variety of knockdown approaches. It is important to recognize that many therapeutics are mutation specific and will only benefit a subset of individuals with a specific disease.