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Mercuri E, Pera MC, Scoto M, Finkel R, Muntoni F. Spinal muscular atrophy - insights and challenges in the treatment era. Nat Rev Neurol. 2020 Dec;16(12):706-715.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive motor neuron disease caused by deletion or mutation of SMN1. Four subtypes exist, characterized by different clinical severities. New therapeutic approaches have become available in the past few years, dramatically changing the natural history of all SMA subtypes, including substantial clinical improvement with the severe and advanced SMA type 1 variant. Trials have now demonstrated that phenotypic rescue is even more dramatic when pre-symptomatic patients are treated, and emerging real-world data are demonstrating the benefits of intervention even in the chronic phase of the condition. Here, we critically review how the field is rapidly evolving in response to the new therapies and questions that the new treatments have posed, including the effects of treatment at different ages and stages of disease, new phenotypes and long-term outcomes in patients who would not have survived without treatment, and decisions of who to treat and when. We also discuss how the outcomes associated with different timing of therapeutic intervention are contributing to our understanding of the biology and pathogenesis of SMA.

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