Analysis of Free Circulating Messenger Ribonucleic Acids in Serum Samples from Late-Onset Spinal Muscular Atrophy Patients Using nCounter NanoString Technology

5q-related Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a hereditary multi-systemic disorder leading to progressive muscle atrophy and weakness caused by the degeneration of spinal motor neurons (MNs) in the ventral horn of the spinal cord. Three SMN-enhancing drugs for SMA treatment are available. However, even if these drugs are highly effective when administrated early, several patients do not benefit sufficiently or remain non-responders, e.g., adults suffering from late-onset SMA and starting their therapy at advanced disease stages characterized by long-standing irreversible loss of MNs. Therefore, it is important to identify additional molecular targets to expand therapeutic strategies for SMA treatment and establish prognostic biomarkers related to the treatment response. Using high-throughput nCounter NanoString technology, we analyzed serum samples of late-onset SMA type 2 and type 3 patients before and six months under nusinersen treatment. Four genes (AMIGO1, CA2, CCL5, TLR2) were significantly altered in their transcript counts in the serum of patients, where differential expression patterns were dependent on SMA subtype and treatment response, assessed with outcome scales. No changes in gene expression were observed six months after nusinersen treatment, compared to healthy controls. These alterations in the transcription of four genes in SMA patients qualified those genes as potential SMN-independent therapeutic targets to complement current SMN-enhancing therapies.


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