Genetic approaches to the treatment of inherited neuromuscular diseases

Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Oct 1;28(R1):R55-R64. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddz131.


Inherited neuromuscular diseases are a heterogeneous group of developmental and degenerative disorders that affect motor unit function. Major challenges toward developing therapies for these diseases include heterogeneity with respect to clinical severity, age of onset and the primary cell type that is affected (e.g. motor neurons, skeletal muscle and Schwann cells). Here, we review recent progress toward the establishment of genetic therapies to treat inherited neuromuscular disorders that affect both children and adults with a focus on spinal muscular atrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy. We discuss clinical features, causative mutations and emerging approaches that are undergoing testing in preclinical models and in patients or that have received recent approval for clinical use. Many of these efforts employ antisense oligonucleotides to alter pre-mRNA splicing or diminish target gene expression and use viral vectors to replace expression of mutant genes. Finally, we discuss remaining challenges for optimizing the delivery and effectiveness of these approaches. In sum, therapeutic strategies for neuromuscular diseases have shown encouraging results, raising hope that recent strides will translate into significant clinical benefits for patients with these disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Management
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / diagnosis
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / therapy*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Therapy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / genetics*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome