Muscle-specific Kinase Myasthenia Gravis (MuSK MG) is an autoimmune disease induced by autoantibodies targeting the neuromuscular junction, or NMJ, which can lead to life-threatening muscle weakness. Generalized MG, or gMG, is characterized by profound muscle weakness throughout the body, resulting in motor impairment, disabling fatigue, shortness of breath due to respiratory muscle weakness and episodes of respiratory failure.
gMG affects approximately 65,000 to 70,000 patients in the United States. The majority of patients who develop gMG have autoantibodies against some part of the NMJ that are known to be pathogenic. 80% to 90% of patients with gMG have autoantibodies against the acetylcholine receptor, or AchR, detectable in their serum. Approximately 6% to 7.5% of patients with gMG have autoantibodies against MuSK, which is a different target on the surface of the muscle membrane.
Patients diagnosed with MuSK MG have a different recommended treatment course compared to patients with AchR MG. Importantly, many patients with MuSK MG respond poorly to cholinesterase inhibitors, which are often the first line of therapy in AchR MG. In that setting, patients with MuSK MG are typically started on corticosteroids in addition to one or more steroid-sparing immunosuppressive agents. Corticosteroids are tapered to the extent possible to prevent disease relapse, though many remain dependent on corticosteroid despite concomitant treatment with immunosuppressive medications. In the acute setting, plasmapheresis may be used to address severe disease. Rituximab is often considered as a second-line therapeutic option in patients with an inadequate response to initial immunosuppressive medications. Complement is not thought to be meaningfully implicated in the pathophysiology of MuSK MG, and complement inhibitors are not indicated for treatment of disease.