Patients with ALS show highly correlated progression rates in left and right limb muscles

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progresses at different rates between patients, making clinical trial design difficult and dependent on large cohorts of patients. Currently, there are few data showing whether the left and right limbs progress at the same or different rates. This study addresses rates of decline in specific muscle groups of patients with ALS and assesses whether there is a relationship between left and right muscles in the same patient, regardless of overall progression.


A large cohort of patients was used to assess decline in muscle strength in right and left limbs over time using 2 different methods: The Tufts Quantitative Neuromuscular Exam and Accurate Test of Limb Isometric Strength protocol. Then advanced linear regression statistical methods were applied to assess progression rates in each limb.


This report shows that linearized progression models can predict general slopes of decline with good accuracy. Critically, the data demonstrate that while overall decline is variable, there is a high degree of correlation between left and right muscle decline in ALS. This implies that irrespective of which muscle starts declining soonest or latest, their rates of decline following onset are more consistent.


First, this study demonstrates a high degree of power when using unilateral treatment approaches to detect a slowing in disease progression in smaller groups of patients, thus allowing for paired statistical tests. These findings will be useful in transplantation trials that use muscle decline to track disease progression in ALS. Second, these findings discuss methods, such as tactical selection of muscle groups, which can improve the power efficiency of all ALS clinical trials.

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