Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School have discovered a new therapy that shows potential to treat people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal disease and the most common form of muscular dystrophy in children.
In the mouse model, researchers were able to substitute for the missing protein dystrophin, which forms a key part of the framework that holds muscle tissue together that results in the disease, effectively repairing weakened muscle tissue.
Researchers injected dystrophic mice with a protein called utrophin a very close relative of dystrophin that was modified with a cell-penetrating tag, called TAT.
The study is the first to establish the efficacy and feasibility of the TAT-utrophin-based protein as a viable therapy for the treatment of muscular dystrophy as well as cardiac muscle diseases caused by loss of dystrophin.
The research is published in the May 26, 2009 issue of PLoS Medicine.
"This unique approach can replace the missing protein without the complexities of gene replacement or stem cell approaches," said James Ervasti, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics.
Muscular dystrophy causes the muscles in the body to progressively weaken. Duchenne is the most common and severe form of childhood muscular dystrophy. About one of 3,500 boys are born with the crippling disease. Symptoms usually begin in children who are 2 to 3 years-old, most are in a wheelchair by age 12, and many who have the disease pass away by their late teens to early 20s. Current treatment, limited to corticosteroids, are minimally effective and can cause serious side effects.
Research underway to battle muscular dystrophy with gene therapy and stem cell treatment shows promise, but major hurdles must be overcome before these approaches are viable in human patients, Ervasti said.
|Contact: Nick Hanson|
University of Minnesota