There is one hitch, however. The treatment probably won't help restore muscle in the heart, which some forms of muscular dystrophy target.
For now, the next step is to see if the approach will work in humans, Wagers said.
Muhlrad said the study is exciting, especially because it relies upon stem cells that come from adults, not embryos. Researchers have been working on a similar treatment using embryonic stem cells, but "that method entails some technical and ethical challenges," he said.
As for humans, the potential for the new stem cell treatment is unknown.
"Researchers will have to devise effective methods for isolating the required numbers of cells from human donors, for delivering those cells to all the affected muscles in patients, and for ensuring that the transplanted cells are not rejected by the recipient's immune system," Muhlrad said.
In general, "stem cell treatment is certainly not yet ready for prime time for muscular dystrophy, though there have been a number of promising preclinical studies in animals, which we're hopeful will enter human clinical trials soon."
Learn more about muscular dystrophy from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
SOURCES: Amy Wagers, Ph.D., principal investigator, Joslin Diabetes Center, and assistant professor, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department, Harvard University, Boston; Paul Muhlrad, Ph.D., research program coordinator, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Tucson, Ariz. July 11, 2008, Cell
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