Muscle quantitative MRI in adult SMA patients on nusinersen treatment: a longitudinal study

Annamaria Gallone 1, Federica Mazzi 2, Silvia Bonanno 1, Riccardo Zanin 3, Marco Moscatelli 2,4, Domenico Aquino 2, Lorenzo Maggi 1

1 Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Diseases Unit, Foundation IRCCS “Carlo Besta” Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy; 2 Neuroradiology Unit, Foundation IRCCS “Carlo Besta” Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy; 3 Developmental Neurology, Foundation IRCCS “Carlo Besta” Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy; 4 Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

DOI 10.36185/2532-1900-074

The recent approval of disease-modifying therapies for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) raised the need of alternative outcome measures to evaluate treatment efficacy. In this study, we investigated the potential of muscle quantitative MRI (qMRI) as a biomarker of disease progression in adult SMA3 patients during nusinersen treatment.
Six adult SMA3 patients (age ranging from 19 to 65 years) underwent 2-point Dixon muscle qMRI at beginning of nusinersen treatment (T0) and after 14 months (T14) to evaluate the muscle fat fraction (FF) at thigh and leg levels; patients were clinically assessed at T0 and T14 with the Hammersmith Functional Rating Scale Expanded (HFMSE), the Revised Upper Limb Module (RULM) and the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). At T0, vastus lateralis muscle displayed the highest mean FF (67.5%), while tibialis anterior was the most preserved one (mean FF = 35.2%). At T0, a slightly significant correlation of FF with HFMSE (p = 0.042) and disease duration (p = 0.042) at thigh level and only with HFMSE (p = 0.042) at leg level was found. At T14, no significant change of mean FF values at thigh and leg muscles was found compared to T0. Conversely, a statistically significant (p = 0.042) improvement of HFMSE was reported at T14.
We observed no significant change of FF in thigh and leg muscles after 14 months of nusinersen therapy despite a significant clinical improvement of HFMSE. Further studies with longer follow-up and larger cohorts are needed to better investigate the role of qMRI as marker of disease progression in SMA patients.

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