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Diagnosis and therapy in neuromuscular disorders: diagnosis and new treatments in mitochondrial diseases
  1. S Rahman1,2,
  2. M G Hanna1,2
  1. 1
    MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK
  2. 2
    Mitochondrial Research Group, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr S Rahman, MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; s.rahman{at}


Mitochondrial disease enters the differential diagnosis of a wide range of CNS and PNS presentations. Respiratory chain ATP production is under bigenomic genetic control. Adult mitochondrial diseases are mainly caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and nuclear gene defects usually present with more severe childhood phenotypes. Recently, mutations in certain nuclear genes—for example POLG, MFN2 and OPA1, have been associated with an increasing number of adult-onset phenotypes. Achieving an accurate diagnosis can be complex and requires the coordinated interplay of clinical assessment, muscle histochemistry, muscle respiratory chain enzymology and genetics. Factors influencing the transmission and expression of mtDNA defects are not fully defined, presenting difficulties in calculating accurate recurrence risks for patients. Curative therapy exists for primary coenzyme Q10 deficiency. For certain mtDNA mutations new therapeutic strategies, including resistance training, have the potential to reduce mutant mtDNA load. Allogeneic stem cell transplant may produce benefit in the nuclear recessive mitochondrial disorder mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy and should be considered in this nuclear driven multiple mtDNA deletion disorder. Supportive therapies in a multidisciplinary team environment are essential to reduce morbidity and mortality.

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  • Funding MGH is supported by an MRC Centre grant: MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases [G0601943] SR is a DH/HEFCE senior lecturer and receives grant funding from SPARKS and the Great Ormond Street Hospital and Institute of Child Health Science Development Initiative. The work of SR, and MGH is undertaken at University College London Hospitals/University College London, which received a proportion of funding from the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centres funding scheme. The UK clinical and diagnostic service for mitochondrial disease at Queen Square, Oxford and Newcastle is supported by the National Commissioning Group, Department of Health, UK. Further details about the mitochondrial service are available from each centre.

  • Competing interests MGH is Deputy Editor of the Journal but has had no involvement in the review process.