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Spinal muscular atrophy. Light micrograph of a transverse section through muscle fibres of a patient with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The larger fibres are unaffected by the disease, while others have become wasted (atrophied). SMA is a motor neurone disease. Motor neurones (nerve cells) are those in the spinal cord that relay messages to muscles. If the motor neurones are damaged then the muscle fibres served by them do not receive any stimulation and so become small and atrophied. SMA is a genetic disease that presents itself in infancy or childhood. Symptoms include inability to lift the head, difficulty swallowing and inability to walk. There is no cure. Magnification: x28 at 10 centimetres wide.
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