Kennedy's disease, also known as bulbospinal muscular atrophy (BSMA), is a rare, adult-onset, X-linked, recessive trinucleotide, polyglutamine (poly-G) disorder, caused by expansion of an unstable CAG-tandem-repeat in exon 1 of the androgen-receptor (AR) gene on chromosome Xq11-12. Poly-Q-expanded AR accumulates in nuclei, undergoes fragmentation and initiates degeneration and loss of motor neurons and dorsal root ganglia. Phenotypically, patients present with weakness and wasting of the facial, bulbar and extremity muscles, sensory disturbances, and endocrinological disturbances, such as gynecomastia and reduced fertility. In the limb muscles weakness and wasting may be symmetric or asymmetric, proximal or distal, or may predominate at the lower or upper limb muscles. There may be mild to severe hyper-CK-emia, elevated testosterone or other sexual hormones, abnormal motor and sensory nerve conduction studies, and neuropathic or rarely myopathic alterations on muscle biopsy. BSMA is diagnosed if the number of CAG-repeats exceeds 40. No causal therapy is available but symptomatic therapy may be beneficial for weakness, tremor, endocrinological abnormalities, muscle cramps, respiratory failure, or dysphagia. The course is slowly progressive and the ability to walk lost only late in life. Only few patients require ventilatory support and life expectancy is only slightly compromised.
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