In MG, the body produces antibodies that most commonly target acetylcholine (AchR) receptors on the surface of the muscle cell. These antibodies block the receptor where signal to contract should be received and also activate the complement pathway which causes muscle cell destruction. Additional antibodies are found in MG such as antibodies to muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (MuSK).
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms can include drooping eyelids, blurred and double vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, chronically fatigued muscles, limb weakness and difficulty breathing.
Who gets MG?
MG is considered a rare disease. It is estimated to impact about 14-20 out of 100,000 individuals in the US although it is likely under-diagnosed. MG does not spare any gender, race, or age. While the underlying cause of MG is still not understood, it occasionally occurs in more than one member of a family.
How is MG currently treated?
Before treatment was available, 70% of MG patients died, mostly due to pulmonary complications. Now, with treatment, the mortality rate of MG has been reduced. However, most medications have not been studied in controlled clinical trials of Myasthenia Gravis patients and therefore the use of many of these drugs is off-label.
Current treatment for MG aims to manage symptoms and avoid the likelihood of a myasthenic crisis, a life-threatening manifestation of the disease.
What does the future hold for MG patients?
The Myasthenia Gravis community is committed to finding a cure for this debilitating disease. Through clinical trials there is hope of better understanding the disease and hope for a cure.
Possible new agents with a variety of mechanisms of action are currently planned for clinical trials. Some approaches include an aim to target the complement pathway, a subcutaneous route of immunoglobulin, monoclonal antibodies, and a therapeutic vaccine. There is also a MG registry study currently open.