Neuromuscular diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), may result in the loss of motor movements, respiratory failure, and early mortality in young children and in adulthood. With novel treatments now available, new evaluation methods are needed to assess progress that is not currently captured in existing motor scale tests.
With our feasibility study, our interdisciplinary team of investigators aims to develop a novel, multimodal paradigm of measuring motor function in children with neuromuscular diseases that will revolutionize the way that clinical trial end points are measured, thereby accelerating the pipeline of new treatments for childhood neuromuscular diseases. Through the Upper Extremity Examination for Neuromuscular Diseases (U-EXTEND) study, we hypothesize that the novel objective measures of upper extremity muscle structure and function proposed herein will be able to capture small changes and differences in function that cannot be measured with current clinical metrics.
U-EXTEND introduces a novel paradigm in which concrete, quantitative measures are used to assess motor function in patients with SMA and DMD. Aim 1 will focus on the use of ultrasound techniques to study muscle size, quality, and function, specifically isolating the biceps and pronator muscles of the upper extremities for follow-ups over time. To achieve this, clinical investigators will extract a set of measurements related to muscle structure, quality, and function by using ultrasound imaging and handheld dynamometry. Aim 2 will focus on leveraging wearable wireless sensor technology to capture motion data as participants perform activities of daily living. Measurement data will be examined and compared to those from a healthy cohort, and a motor function score will be calculated.
Data collection for both aims began in January 2021. As of July 2022, we have enrolled 44 participants (9 with SMA, 20 with DMD, and 15 healthy participants). We expect the initial results to be published in summer 2022.
We hypothesize that by applying the described tools and techniques for measuring muscle structure and upper extremity function, we will have created a system for the precise quantification of changes in motor function among patients with neuromuscular diseases. Our study will allow us to track the minimal clinically important difference over time to assess progress in novel treatments. By comparing the muscle scores and functional scores over multiple visits, we will be able to detect small changes in both the ability of the participants to perform the functional tasks and their intrinsic muscle properties.