The spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) comprise more than 40 autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorders that present principally with progressive ataxia. Within the past few years, studies of pathogenic mechanisms in the SCAs have led to the development of promising therapeutic strategies, especially for SCAs caused by polyglutamine-coding CAG repeats. Nucleotide-based gene-silencing approaches that target the first steps in the pathogenic cascade are one promising approach not only for polyglutamine SCAs but also for the many other SCAs caused by toxic mutant proteins or RNA. For these and other emerging therapeutic strategies, well-coordinated preparation is needed for fruitful clinical trials. To accomplish this goal, investigators from the United States and Europe are now collaborating to share data from their respective SCA cohorts. Increased knowledge of the natural history of SCAs, including of the premanifest and early symptomatic stages of disease, will improve the prospects for success in clinical trials of disease-modifying drugs. In addition, investigators are seeking validated clinical outcome measures that demonstrate responsiveness to changes in SCA populations. Findings suggest that MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy biomarkers will provide objective biological readouts of disease activity and progression, but more work is needed to establish disease-specific biomarkers that track target engagement in therapeutic trials. Together, these efforts suggest that the development of successful therapies for one or more SCAs is not far away.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience