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Stem Cells Hold Promise for Muscular Dystrophy
Date:7/10/2008

Injections helped restore damaged muscle in mice, researchers report

THURSDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are reporting that they've managed to repair damaged muscle in mice with a form of muscular dystrophy by injecting them with specialized stem cells from skeletal muscle.

There's no guarantee that the treatment will translate to humans with the disease, said study author Amy Wagers, an assistant professor in Harvard University's Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department.

Still, the findings are going to help scientists "move forward very quickly with human stem cells," she said. "It is an important step."

There are more than 30 kinds of muscular dystrophy, all genetic diseases that cause skeletal muscles to degenerate. The most common form, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mainly affects boys and is caused by the lack of a protein that helps muscles stay intact.

Many children with the disease cannot walk and must live on respirators. The disease is usually fatal by early adulthood.

The best treatment is with steroids, which slow the immune response that causes much of the muscle scarring, said Paul Muhlrad, research program coordinator with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. "However, there are a number of promising experimental therapies under development, including gene and cell therapies and treatment with a high-tech drug," he said.

In the new study, Wagers and her colleagues turned to purified stem cells that create muscle. The cells came from healthy adult mice and were injected into mice with a disease that scientists consider to be the equivalent to Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The findings were published in the July 11 issue of Cell.

Like a replacement division sent to replace exhausted soldiers, the stem cells restored muscle. "They actually came in and started making muscle," she said.

The stem cells even left a supply o
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