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Clinical and genetic analyses of a Swedish patient series diagnosed with ataxia.

Journal of Neurology 2023 October 4
Hereditary ataxia is a heterogeneous group of complex neurological disorders. Next-generation sequencing methods have become a great help in clinical diagnostics, but it may remain challenging to determine if a genetic variant is the cause of the patient's disease. We compiled a consecutive single-center series of 87 patients from 76 families with progressive ataxia of known or unknown etiology. We investigated them clinically and genetically using whole exome or whole genome sequencing. Test methods were selected depending on family history, clinical phenotype, and availability. Genetic results were interpreted based on the American College of Medical Genetics criteria. For high-suspicion variants of uncertain significance, renewed bioinformatical and clinical evaluation was performed to assess the level of pathogenicity. Thirty (39.5%) of the 76 families had received a genetic diagnosis at the end of our study. We present the predominant etiologies of hereditary ataxia in a Swedish patient series. In two families, we established a clinical diagnosis, although the genetic variant was classified as "of uncertain significance" only, and in an additional three families, results are pending. We found a pathogenic variant in one family, but we suspect that it does not explain the complete clinical picture. We conclude that correctly interpreting genetic variants in complex neurogenetic diseases requires genetics and clinical expertise. The neurologist's careful phenotyping remains essential to confirm or reject a diagnosis, also by reassessing clinical findings after a candidate genetic variant is suggested. Collaboration between neurology and clinical genetics and combining clinical and research approaches optimizes diagnostic yield.

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