Among the glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD)-antibody-spectrum disorders, the most common phenotypic subset is the stiff-person syndrome (SPS), caused by impaired GABAergic inhibitory neurotransmission and autoimmunity characterized by very high titers of GAD antibodies and increased GAD-IgG intrathecal synthesis. If not properly treated or untreated because of delayed diagnosis, SPS progresses leading to disability; it is therefore fundamental to apply the best therapeutic schemes from the outset. This article is focused on the rationale of specific therapeutic strategies based on the SPS pathophysiology targeting both the impaired reciprocal GABAergic inhibition to symptomatically improve the main clinical manifestations of stiffness in the truncal and proximal limb muscles, gait dysfunction, and episodic painful muscle spasms and the autoimmunity to enhance improvement and slow down disease progression. A practical, step-by-step therapeutic approach is provided, highlighting the importance of combination therapies with the preferred gamma-aminobutyric acid-enhancing antispasmodic drugs, such as baclofen, tizanidine, benzodiazepines, and gabapentin, that provide the first-line symptomatic therapy, while detailing the application of current immunotherapies with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) plasmapheresis, and rituximab. The pitfalls and concerns of long-term therapies in different age groups, including children, women planning pregnancy, and especially the elderly considering their comorbidities are emphasized, also highlighting the challenges in distinguishing the conditioning effects or expectations of chronically applied therapies from objective meaningful clinical benefits. Finally, the need for future targeted immunotherapeutic options based on disease immunopathogenesis and the biologic basis of autoimmune hyperexcitability are discussed, pointing out the unique challenges in the design of future controlled clinical trials especially in quantifying the extend and severity of stiffness, episodic or startle-triggered muscle spasms, task-specific phobias, and excitability.
Dalakas, Marinos, "Therapies in Stiff-Person Syndrome: Advances and Future Prospects Based on Disease Pathophysiology" (2023). Department of Neurology Faculty Papers. Paper 317.
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