Diagnosis and management of MELAS
Mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes (MELAS) is the most common maternally inherited mitochondrial disease. An A-->G mutation in the transfer RNA(Leu(UUR)) gene at position 3243 of the mitochondrial DNA accounts for most MELAS cases. The transient nature of the stroke-like episodes is reflected in abnormalities on neuroimaging. The cardinal laboratory abnormalities include elevated serum lactate during the acute episodes and respiratory enzyme defects in skeletal muscle. Muscle biopsy also helps confirm the diagnosis by identifying abnormal proliferation of mitochondria. Although current treatment options for MELAS are largely supportive, several therapeutic approaches have been attempted with limited success. Genetic counseling is an important component of patient management in MELAS. Newer reproductive technologies hold promise for reducing the recurrence of MELAS in subsequent generations. Advances in research into gene therapy offer hope of treatment for the future.