Saturday, April 9, 2016

Two New Antibodies Found That Possibly Cause Myasthenia Gravis

An article at discusses a study that has found two new antibodies that may be the cause of myasthenia gravis in some patients.

A recent nationwide study of patients with myasthenia gravis is helping to determine the incidence
of two new antibodies believed to cause the disease, and the possibility that these patients need different treatment strategies.

Scientists are testing the blood of patients from 22 medical centers that specialize in the treatment of mysathenia gravis, the most common communication problem between brain and muscle, to determine what percentage of patients have one or both of the new antibodies and to characterize their clinical symptoms, said Dr. Lin Mei, chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

About 10 percent of patients have no evidence of two other antibodies already known to cause the disease, although they have classic clinical symptoms such as drooping eyelids, generalized muscle weakness and problems breathing, and electrical studies of their brain-muscle communication indicate a problem.

These so-called double-negative patients are the target for the new study, which is testing their blood for antibodies to two proteins, agrin and LRP4, that Mei's lab has shown are also critical to healthy brain-muscle communication.

Antibodies to agrin and LRP4 have already been found in some patients, and LPR4 antibodies cause myasthenia gravis-like symptoms when injected into lab animals.

"We want to know whether these patients have any unique symptoms so we can diagnose them early then confirm their diagnosis with a blood test," said Mei, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience and principal investigator on the new $3 million National Institutes of Health grant. He notes that several companies already are interested in developing agrin and LRP4 antibody tests.

"These patients may very well have slightly different symptoms because of where ...

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