Overview of Current Drugs and Molecules in Development for Spinal Muscular Atrophy Therapy

Hannah K Shorrock, Thomas H Gillingwater, Ewout J N Groen

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Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease primarily characterized by a loss of spinal motor neurons, leading to progressive paralysis and premature death in the most severe cases. SMA is caused by homozygous deletion of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, leading to low levels of SMN protein. However, a second SMN gene (SMN2) exists, which can be therapeutically targeted to increase SMN levels. This has recently led to the first disease-modifying therapy for SMA gaining formal approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). Spinraza (nusinersen) is a modified antisense oligonucleotide that targets the splicing of SMN2, leading to increased SMN protein levels, capable of improving clinical phenotypes in many patients. In addition to Spinraza, several other therapeutic approaches are currently in various stages of clinical development. These include SMN-dependent small molecule and gene therapy approaches along with SMN-independent strategies, such as general neuroprotective factors and muscle strength-enhancing compounds. For each therapy, we provide detailed information on clinical trial design and pharmacological/safety data where available. Previous clinical studies are also discussed to provide context on SMA clinical trial development and the insights these provided for the design of current studies.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2018


  • Journal Article


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