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BACKGROUND: The Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) consist of 13 subtypes with overlapping features including joint hypermobility, skin and vascular fragility and generalized connective tissue friability. As DNA analysis has become the gold standard for investigation of EDS, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in clinical practice is decreasing. However, owing to the use of next-generation sequencing, the frequency of variants of uncertain significance (VUS) identified using DNA analysis is increasing. We hypothesized that TEM can provide evidence for or against pathogenicity of VUS. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of TEM in the diagnosis of EDS subtypes. METHODS: Data were collected from patients who underwent a skin biopsy between October 2012 and March 2017 at the London EDS National Diagnostic Service. TEM biopsies were categorized as 'normal' or 'abnormal' according to the description and conclusion in the TEM reports. Definitive diagnoses were reached via a combination of clinical features, structural and functional studies and DNA investigations. RESULTS: The analysis included 177 patients, comprising 30 abnormal and 147 normal TEM reports. A definitive diagnosis of monogenic EDS subtypes was made in 24 patients. Overall, 17 of these 24 patients (71%) had an abnormal biopsy report and seven (29%) had a normal biopsy report. No TEM findings were specifically associated with any EDS subtype, although collagen flowers were present in most patients with a genetically confirmed diagnosis of classical EDS. CONCLUSIONS: TEM analysis of collagen structure may have the potential to provide evidence for or against the pathogenicity of a VUS, but more work is needed to establish a clear role for TEM in this process. What's already known about this topic? Collagen fibril abnormalities can be seen in several Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) subtypes. What does this study add? This study provides clinical data, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) data and molecular data of one of the largest groups of patients suspected to have a monogenetic EDS subtype. No TEM findings were specifically associated with an EDS subtype. There was a higher percentage (71%) of abnormal biopsy findings in patients with a definitive diagnosis of a monogenetic EDS subtype and where a class 4/5 genetic variant was present.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Dermatol

Publication Date





698 - 707