DOI: 10.3390/ijms241511939 ISSN: 1422-0067

Spinal Muscular Atrophy: The Past, Present, and Future of Diagnosis and Treatment

Hisahide Nishio, Emma Tabe Eko Niba, Toshio Saito, Kentaro Okamoto, Yasuhiro Takeshima, Hiroyuki Awano
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • Catalysis

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a lower motor neuron disease with autosomal recessive inheritance. The first cases of SMA were reported by Werdnig in 1891. Although the phenotypic variation of SMA led to controversy regarding the clinical entity of the disease, the genetic homogeneity of SMA was proved in 1990. Five years later, in 1995, the gene responsible for SMA, SMN1, was identified. Genetic testing of SMN1 has enabled precise epidemiological studies, revealing that SMA occurs in 1 of 10,000 to 20,000 live births and that more than 95% of affected patients are homozygous for SMN1 deletion. In 2016, nusinersen was the first drug approved for treatment of SMA in the United States. Two other drugs were subsequently approved: onasemnogene abeparvovec and risdiplam. Clinical trials with these drugs targeting patients with pre-symptomatic SMA (those who were diagnosed by genetic testing but showed no symptoms) revealed that such patients could achieve the milestones of independent sitting and/or walking. Following the great success of these trials, population-based newborn screening programs for SMA (more precisely, SMN1-deleted SMA) have been increasingly implemented worldwide. Early detection by newborn screening and early treatment with new drugs are expected to soon become the standards in the field of SMA.

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