Article

Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Leiden University, Leyden, South Holland, Netherlands
Muscle & Nerve (Impact Factor: 2.31). 07/2006; 34(1):1 - 15. DOI: 10.1002/mus.20522

ABSTRACT Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a dominantly inherited disorder with an initially restricted pattern of weakness. Early involvement of the facial and scapular stabilizer muscles results in a distinctive clinical presentation. Progression is descending, with subsequent involvement of either the distal anterior leg or hip-girdle muscles. There is wide variability in age at onset, disease severity, and side-to-side symmetry, which is evident even within affected members of the same family. Although FSHD is considered a relatively benign dystrophy by some, as many as 20% of patients eventually become wheelchair-bound. Associated nonskeletal muscle manifestations include high-frequency hearing loss as well as retinal telangiectasias, both of which are rarely symptomatic. The causal genetic lesion in FSHD was described over a decade ago, raising hope that knowledge about its molecular and cellular pathophysiology was soon to follow. In the vast majority of cases, FSHD results from a heterozygous partial deletion of a critical number of repetitive elements (D4Z4) on chromosome 4q35; yet, to date, no causal gene has been identified. The accumulating evidence points to a complex, perhaps unique, molecular genetic mechanism. The absence of detectable expressed sequences from D4Z4, the association of FSHD-causing 4q35 deletions with a specific distal genomic sequence (4qA allele), altered DNA methylation patterns on 4q35, as well as other direct and indirect evidence point to epigenetic mechanisms. As a consequence, partial deletion of D4Z4 results in a (local) chromatin change and ultimately results in the loss of appropriate control of gene expression. There is at present no effective treatment for FSHD. A better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology is needed to design targeted interventions. Despite these limitations, however, two randomized controlled clinical trials have been conducted on FSHD. These trials, along with a previous natural history study, have helped to better define outcome measures for future trials in FSHD as well as other dystrophies. Muscle Nerve, 2006

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