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To study the role of diabetes, gynecomastia and CAG triplet repeat size as disease modifying factors of neurologic expression in spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA, Kennedy's disease).
Twenty unrelated SBMApatients with confirmatory genetic testing were reviewed. Patterns of neurologic involvement were assessed (e.g. bulbar, asymmetric, proximal, distal, motor and sensory). Slopes of disease progression were calculated from serial quantified neurologic examinations. Patterns of neurologic involvement and course were correlated to the presence of diabetes, gynecomastia and triplet repeat size.
Diabetes or glucose impairment occurred in nine and 11 had gynecomastia. Patterns of neurologic involvement and rates of progression did not correlate with these endocrine diseases or triplet repeat sizes. Correlation was seen between number of CAG repeats and age of onset weakness (r = -0.53, r2 = 29%, p = 0.01).
The specific neurotoxic effect of expanded CAGs appears limited to age of onset weakness in SBMA. Although significant, only 29% of the variability in onset age could be accounted for by polyglutamine size suggesting the importance of other unidentified factors. In this series diabetes or glucose impairment was more common than previously reported and, like gynecomastia, did not correlate with size of triplet repeats, severity or patterns of neurologic involvement. Modifying factors other than diabetes, gynecomastia or triplet repeat size are suggested in disease expression.
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