The rapid evolution of molecular genetic diagnostics in neuromuscular diseases

Curr Opin Neurol. 2017 Oct;30(5):523-528. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000478.


Purpose of review: The development of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) has revolutionized molecular genetic diagnostics in monogenic disorders. The present review gives a brief overview of different MPS-based approaches used in clinical diagnostics of neuromuscular disorders (NMDs) and highlights their advantages and limitations.

Recent findings: MPS-based approaches like gene panel sequencing, (whole) exome sequencing, (whole) genome sequencing, and RNA sequencing have been used to identify the genetic cause in NMDs. Although gene panel sequencing has evolved as a standard test for heterogeneous diseases, it is still debated, mainly because of financial issues and unsolved problems of variant interpretation, whether genome sequencing (and to a lesser extent also exome sequencing) of single patients can already be regarded as routine diagnostics. However, it has been shown that the inclusion of parents and additional family members often leads to a substantial increase in the diagnostic yield in exome-wide/genome-wide MPS approaches. In addition, MPS-based RNA sequencing just enters the research and diagnostic scene.

Summary: Next-generation sequencing increasingly enables the detection of the genetic cause in highly heterogeneous diseases like NMDs in an efficient and affordable way. Gene panel sequencing and family-based exome sequencing have been proven as potent and cost-efficient diagnostic tools. Although clinical validation and interpretation of genome sequencing is still challenging, diagnostic RNA sequencing represents a promising tool to bypass some hurdles of diagnostics using genomic DNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exome
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / genetics*
  • Pathology, Molecular / trends*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA