This report is the third part of a trilogy from a multidisciplinary study which was undertaken to investigate gene and protein expression in a large cohort of patients with well defined and diverse clinical phenotypes. The aim of part 3 was to review which of the analytical techniques that we had used would be the most useful for differential diagnosis, and which would provide the most accurate indication of disease severity. Careful clinical appraisal is very important and every DMD patient was correctly diagnosed on this basis. In contrast, half of the sporadic BMD patients and all of the sporadic female patients had received different tentative diagnoses based on clinical assessments alone. Sequential observations of quantitative parameters (such as the time taken to run a fixed distance) were found to be useful clinical indicators for prognosis. Intellectual problems might modify the impression of physical ability in patients presenting at a young age. Histopathological assessment was accurate for DMD but differentiation between BMD and other disorders was more difficult, as was the identification of manifesting carriers. Our data on a small number of women with symptoms of muscle disease indicate that abnormal patterns of dystrophin labelling on sections may be an effective way of differentiating between female patients with a form of limb girdle dystrophy and those carrying a defective Xp21 gene. Dystrophin gene analysis detects deletions/duplications in 50 to 90% of male patients and is the most effective non-invasive technique for diagnosis. Quantitative Western blotting, however, would differentiate between all Xp21 and non-Xp21 male patients. In this study we found a clear relationship between increased dystrophin abundance (determined by densitometric analysis of blots) and clinical condition, with a correlation between dystrophin abundance and the age at loss of independent mobility among boys with DMD and intermediate D/BMD. This indicates that blotting is the most sensitive and accurate technique for diagnosis and prognosis.
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