Scarpelli M, Todeschini A, Volonghi I et al.
Department of Neuroscience, Unit of Neurology, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata Verona, Verona, Italy.
The application of clinical genetics. 2017.
Mitochondrial diseases (MDs) are a clinically heterogeneous group of disorders caused by a dysfunction of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. They can be related to mutation of genes encoded using either nuclear DNA or mitochondrial DNA. The advent of next generation sequencing and whole exome sequencing in studying the molecular bases of MDs will bring about a revolution in the field of mitochondrial medicine, also opening the possibility of better defining pathogenic mechanisms and developing novel therapeutic approaches for these devastating disorders. The canonical rules of mitochondrial medicine remain milestones, but novel issues have been raised following the use of advanced diagnostic technologies. Rigorous validation of the novel mutations detected using deep sequencing in patients with suspected MD, and a clear definition of the natural history, outcome measures, and biomarkers that could be usefully adopted in clinical trials, are mandatory goals for the scientific community. Today, therapy is often inadequate and mostly palliative. However, important advances have been made in treating some clinical entities, eg, mitochondrial neuro-gastrointestinal encephalomyopathy, for which approaches using allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, orthotopic liver transplantation, and carrier erythrocyte entrapped thymidine phosphorylase enzyme therapy have recently been developed. Promising new treatment methods are being identified so that researchers, clinicians, and patients can join forces to change the history of these untreatable disorders.