Affecting about 5 in 100,000 people, Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain and spinal cord. MSA is a form of “atypical” parkinsonism, where patients present with motor symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease (i.e., parkinsonism), yet respond poorly to anti-Parkinson’s therapy. MSA patients also have prominent autonomic dysfunction (orthostatic hypotension; bowel and bladder and erectile dysfunction; altered temperature regulation) which are not addressed by available therapy and significantly impair quality of life. The clinical course is rapidly progressive and results in progressive loss of physical function until general debilitation occurs. Patients with MSA respond poorly to levodopa, a medication commonly used to treat some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
There is currently no treatment to slow the progression of MSA.