Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness due to the loss of anterior horn motor neurons. Nearly all cases of SMA are caused by homozygous deletion of mutation of the SMN1 gene. SMA ranges widely in severity, and symptom onset usually occurs during childhood. In its most serious form, SMA is lethal in infancy. Until recently, no treatments existed for SMA. Biogen/Ionis’s antisense therapy Spinraza now offers a targeted treatment option for SMA patients, and several exciting pharmacological (e.g., Roche’s RG-7916) and gene (Novartis/AveXis’s AVXS-101) therapies are in late-stage development, seeking to capitalize on pressing unmet treatment need in this devastating condition.
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