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1.  Functional Substitution by TAT-Utrophin in Dystrophin-Deficient Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000083.
James Ervasti and colleagues show that injection of a truncated form of utrophin transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, and reduced serum levels of creatine kinase in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy.
The loss of dystrophin compromises muscle cell membrane stability and causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy and/or various forms of cardiomyopathy. Increased expression of the dystrophin homolog utrophin by gene delivery or pharmacologic up-regulation has been demonstrated to restore membrane integrity and improve the phenotype in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse. However, the lack of a viable therapy in humans predicates the need to explore alternative methods to combat dystrophin deficiency. We investigated whether systemic administration of recombinant full-length utrophin (Utr) or ΔR4-21 “micro” utrophin (μUtr) protein modified with the cell-penetrating TAT protein transduction domain could attenuate the phenotype of mdx mice.
Methods and Findings
Recombinant TAT-Utr and TAT-μUtr proteins were expressed using the baculovirus system and purified using FLAG-affinity chromatography. Age-matched mdx mice received six twice-weekly intraperitoneal injections of either recombinant protein or PBS. Three days after the final injection, mice were analyzed for several phenotypic parameters of dystrophin deficiency. Injected TAT-μUtr transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, reduced serum levels of creatine kinase (11,290±920 U versus 5,950±1,120 U; PBS versus TAT), the prevalence of muscle degeneration/regeneration (54%±5% versus 37%±4% of centrally nucleated fibers; PBS versus TAT), the susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced force drop (72%±5% versus 40%±8% drop; PBS versus TAT), and increased specific force production (9.7±1.1 N/cm2 versus 12.8±0.9 N/cm2; PBS versus TAT).
These results are, to our knowledge, the first to establish the efficacy and feasibility of TAT-utrophin-based constructs as a novel direct protein-replacement therapy for the treatment of skeletal and cardiac muscle diseases caused by loss of dystrophin.
Editors' Summary
Muscular dystrophies are genetic (inherited) diseases in which the body's muscles gradually weaken and degenerate. The commonest and most severe muscular dystrophy—Duchenne muscular dystrophy—affects 1 in 3,500 boys (girls can be carriers of the disease but rarely have any symptoms). At birth, these boys seem normal but the symptoms of their disease begin to appear in early childhood. Affected children may initially have difficulty walking or find it to hard to sit or stand independently. As they age, their muscle strength progressively declines and most affected boys are confined to a wheelchair by the time they are 12 years old. The muscles involved in breathing also weaken and the heart muscle becomes enlarged. Few boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy live beyond their early 20 s, usually dying from breathing or heart problems. At present there is no cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, physical therapy and treatment with steroids can prolong the ability of patients to walk, and assisted ventilation can help with their breathing.
Why Was This Study Done?
In all muscular dystrophies, one of the proteins needed to build and maintain healthy muscles is missing or nonfunctional because of a genetic change (mutation). In Duchenne muscular dystrophy the mutation is in dystrophin, a protein that is involved in the formation of the dystrophin–glycoprotein complex. This complex normally sits in the membranes that surround muscle fibers and protects these membranes from damage during muscle contraction. Consequently, in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the muscle fiber membranes become damaged and eventually the muscle fibers die. Thus, if functional dystrophin could be introduced into the muscles of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, it might be possible to reduce their symptoms and prolong their lives. Indeed, the effects of dystrophin deficiency in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse can be reduced by the introduction of an artificial gene that expresses dystrophin or the closely related protein utrophin. Unfortunately, this gene therapy approach has not yet been effectively demonstrated in humans. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether utrophin protein can be introduced directly into dystrophin-deficient mouse muscles by exposing the muscle cells to utrophin fused to the protein transduction domain of the HIV-1 TAT protein. Most proteins will not cross cell membranes, but proteins fused to this cell-penetrating domain readily enter many cell types, including muscle cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers injected full-length utrophin fused to the TAT protein transduction domain (TAT-Utr) and a short, “micro” version of utrophin fused to the same domain (TAT-μUtr) into the abdomens of mdx mice and looked to see where the proteins ended up. After two injections, both proteins were present in a wide range of tissues and organs, including several types of muscle. However, the levels of TAT-Utr were much lower than those of TAT-μUtr. Next, the researchers injected another group of mdx mice with TAT-μUtr six times over three weeks. Again, TAT-μUtr was present in all the tissues that the researchers examined. Furthermore, μUtr–glycoprotein complexes formed in the TAT-μUtr injected mdx mice and the membrane integrity and overall health of the dystrophin-deficient muscles of the mdx mice improved compared to mdx mice treated with saline. Finally, the researchers report, TAT-μUtr injections greatly improved the contractile performance of the muscles of the mdx mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first demonstration that injection of TAT-utrophin protein fusions may provide a way to treat muscular dystrophies caused by the loss of dystrophin. However, although this direct protein-replacement therapy looks hopeful, approaches that work in animals do not necessarily work in people. In particular, for this approach to work in patients with muscular dystrophy, it would be necessary to give frequent, high-dose injections of the TAT-μUtr fusion protein, a process that could eventually trigger a deleterious immune response. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that by combining this novel approach with other approaches that also increase utrophin expression, it might be possible to prevent or delay the development of the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on muscular dystrophy and ongoing research into possible treatments (in English and Spanish)
The US National Human Genome Research Institute also provides basic information on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and links to additional resources
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages for patients and caregivers on muscular dystrophy
The Nemours Foundation provides information about muscular dystrophy for parents, children, and teenagers
For links to further resources on muscular dystrophy, see also MedlinePlus
PMCID: PMC2680620  PMID: 19478831
2.  Progress in gene therapy of dystrophic heart disease 
Gene therapy  2012;19(6):678-685.
The heart is frequently afflicted in muscular dystrophy. In severe cases, cardiac lesion may directly result in death. Over the years, pharmacological and/or surgical interventions have been the mainstay to alleviate cardiac symptoms in muscular dystrophy patients. Although these traditional modalities remain useful, the emerging field of gene therapy has now provided an unprecedented opportunity to transform our thinking/approach in the treatment of dystrophic heart disease. In fact, the premise is already in place for genetic correction. Gene mutations have been identified and animal models are available for several types of muscular dystrophy. Most importantly, innovative strategies have been developed to effectively deliver therapeutic genes to the heart. Dystrophin-deficient Duchenne cardiomyopathy is associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most common lethal muscular dystrophy. Considering its high incidence, there has been a considerable interest and significant input in the development of Duchenne cardiomyopathy gene therapy. Using Duchenne cardiomyopathy as an example, here we illustrate the struggles and successes experienced in the burgeoning field of dystrophic heart disease gene therapy. In light of abundant and highly promising data with the adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector, we have specially emphasized on AAV-mediated gene therapy. Besides DMD, we have also discussed gene therapy for treating cardiac diseases in other muscular dystrophies such as limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3628728  PMID: 22318092
muscular dystrophy; heart; cardiomyopathy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; sarcoglycan
3.  Autologous bone marrow mononuclear cell transplantation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a case report 
Patient: Male, 9
Final Diagnosis: Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Symptoms: Hyporeflexia • hypotonia • weaknes of lower limbs
Medication: —
Clinical Procedure: —
Specialty: Neurology
Congenital defects/diseases
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal, genetic, progressive, degenerating muscle disorder. Current treatment options are palliative. Newer options of cellular therapy promise to alter the disease process. Preclinical studies have successfully tested myogenic, neurogenic potential and dystrophin expression of bone marrow mononuclear cells.
Case Report:
We treated a 9-year-old boy suffering from DMD with serial autologous bone marrow mononuclear cell transplantations followed by multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Brooke-Vignos score was 10 and he was wheelchair-bound. Over 36 months, gradual progressive improvement was noticed in muscle strength, ambulation with assistive devices, fine motor movements, Brooke-Vignos score, and functional independence measure score. Nine months after the transplantation, electromyography findings showed development of new normal motor unit potentials of the vastus medialis muscle.
Magnetic resonance imaging scan of musculoskeletal systems showed no increase in fatty infiltration. This case report provides early investigative findings or the restorative effects of cellular therapy in DMD.
PMCID: PMC3976215  PMID: 24711886
Stem Cell Transplantation; Autologous Bone Marrow Mono Nuclear Cells; Electromyography; Muscular Dystrophy; Duchenne – congenital
4.  Distinctive Serum miRNA Profile in Mouse Models of Striated Muscular Pathologies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55281.
Biomarkers are critically important for disease diagnosis and monitoring. In particular, close monitoring of disease evolution is eminently required for the evaluation of therapeutic treatments. Classical monitoring methods in muscular dystrophies are largely based on histological and molecular analyses of muscle biopsies. Such biopsies are invasive and therefore difficult to obtain. The serum protein creatine kinase is a useful biomarker, which is however not specific for a given pathology and correlates poorly with the severity or course of the muscular pathology. The aim of the present study was the systematic evaluation of serum microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers in striated muscle pathologies. Mouse models for five striated muscle pathologies were investigated: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2D (LGMD2D), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C (LGMD2C), Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Two-step RT-qPCR methodology was elaborated, using two different RT-qPCR miRNA quantification technologies. We identified miRNA modulation in the serum of all the five mouse models. The most highly dysregulated serum miRNAs were found to be commonly upregulated in DMD, LGMD2D and LGMD2C mouse models, which all exhibit massive destruction of striated muscle tissues. Some of these miRNAs were down rather than upregulated in the EDMD mice, a model without massive myofiber destruction. The dysregulated miRNAs identified in the HCM model were different, with the exception of one dysregulated miRNA common to all pathologies. Importantly, a specific and distinctive circulating miRNA profile was identified for each studied pathological mouse model. The differential expression of a few dysregulated miRNAs in the DMD mice was further evaluated in DMD patients, providing new candidates of circulating miRNA biomarkers for DMD.
PMCID: PMC3572119  PMID: 23418438
5.  Assessment of Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders in Patients With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Respiratory failure is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in neuromuscular diseases. Although clinical findings and respiratory function tests aid in diagnosing sleep-related breathing disorders, polysomnography is the gold standard for the diagnosis of these disorders. We aimed to investigate the role of sleep-wake symptoms and clinical findings of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in predicting sleep-related breathing disorders through the comparison of polysomnography findings. In addition, we evaluated the sleep architecture of our patients.
A total of 35 children (12 patients with DMD and 23 controls) were included in this cross-sectional study. Activity status and clinical severity of the patients were determined by history and clinical findings such as scoliosis, obesity. All subjects were hospitalized for one night in the Sleep Unit and their polysomnography examinations were performed. Sleep, breathing, arousals and limb movements were scored manually according to the American Sleep Disorders Association criteria.
Nocturnal and daytime symptoms were present in 50% of patients with DMD, 40.8% were wheelchair-bound and 58% had scoliosis. Obstructive sleep apnea was noted in 16.6% of patients with DMD. The apnea-hypopnea index, leg movement index were significantly higher in the DMD group as compared to the control group (P < 0.05). The number of desaturations, total arousal index and the percentage of total superficial sleep were significantly higher in patients with wheelchair, scoliosis, sleep-wake symptoms.
Being wheelchair-bound or having scoliosis do not predict sleep-related breathing disorders, so patients with DMD should be followed-up via polysomnography. Sleep-wake symptoms should be carefully questioned in these patients and symptomatic patients should be referred to pediatric respiratory units.
PMCID: PMC3449431  PMID: 23024736
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Neuromuscular diseases; Obstructive sleep apnea; Polysomnography
6.  Diagnosis and cell-based therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in humans, mice, and zebrafish 
Journal of human genetics  2006;51(5):397-406.
The muscular dystrophies are a heterogeneous group of genetically caused muscle degenerative disorders. The Kunkel laboratory has had a longstanding research program into the pathogenesis and treatment of these diseases. Starting with our identification of dystrophin as the defective protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), we have continued our work on normal dystrophin function and how it is altered in muscular dystrophy. Our work has led to the identification of the defective genes in three forms of limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) and a better understanding of how muscle degenerates in many of the different dystrophies. The identification of mutations causing human forms of dystrophy has lead to improved diagnosis for patients with the disease. We are continuing to improve the molecular diagnosis of the dystrophies and have developed a high-throughput sequencing approach for the low-cost rapid diagnosis of all known forms of dystrophy. In addition, we are continuing to work on therapies using available animal models. Currently, there are a number of mouse models of the human dystrophies, the most notable being the mdx mouse with dystrophin deficiency. These mice are being used to test possible therapies, including stem-cell-based approaches. We have been able to systemically deliver human dystrophin to these mice via the arterial circulation and convert 8% of dystrophin-deficient fibers to fibers expressing human dystrophin. We are now expanding our research to identify new forms of LGMD by analyzing zebrafish models of muscular dystrophy. Currently, we have 14 different zebrafish mutants exhibiting various phenotypes of muscular dystrophy, including muscle weakness and inactivity. One of these mutants carries a stop codon mutation in dystrophin, and we have recently identified another carrying a mutation in titin. We are currently positionally cloning the disease-causative mutation in the remaining 12 mutant strains. We hope that one of these new mutant strains of fish will have a mutation in a gene not previously implicated in human muscular dystrophy. This gene would become a candidate gene to be analyzed in patients which do not carry a mutation in any of the known dystrophy-associated genes. By studying both disease pathology and investigating potential therapies, we hope to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3518425  PMID: 16583129
DNA sequencing; Muscle; Muscular dystrophy; Stem cells; Zebrafish
7.  Possible neurogenic factor in muscular dystrophy: its similarity to denervation atrophy1 
Muscle biopsy specimens from 179 cases of muscular dystrophies and from 140 cases of anterior horn cell disorders (from a total of 1,348 biopsied patients) were examined histologically. There were 72 cases of Duchenne type muscular dystrophy (DMD), five of Becker type MD, four girls with myopathy resembling DMD, 40 with limb-girdle, 10 with facioscapulohumeral, seven with late onset, 13 with congenital, and 28 with unclassifiable muscular dystrophies. Groups of small atrophied muscle fibres were encountered in 42 (23%) of the cases in this group, most frequently in patients with limb-girdle, facioscapulohumeral, and least frequently with DM dystrophy. In the second group there were 25 cases of infantile, 38 of juvenile, and 39 of adult spinal muscular atrophy (SMA); there were 21 patients with motor neurone disease (MND), six with poliomyelitis, and 11 with an unclassifiable type of anterior horn cell disorder. Pseudomyopathic changes were encountered in 43 (30%) of all cases in this group. They were most frequently present among patients with juvenile and adult SMA and in those with MND. The presence of group atrophy in muscular dystrophy is considered significant myopathological evidence of a denervation process. On the other hand, pseudomyopathic changes, variation in fibre size, rounding, central nuclei, and increase in connective tissue occurring in various anterior horn cell disorders are seen not to be specific `myopathic' changes. Thus there was an overlap of pathological reactions in muscles from the dystrophies and the neurogenic atrophies. Comparably atrophied fibres (much less than 2 SDs below the normal mean diameter) and hypertrophied fibres (much more than 2 SDs above the normal mean diameter) were encountered in both dystrophy and neurogenic atrophy, considering the large muscles of the limb. Likewise, the mean fibre diameters were comparable in DMD and in juvenile SMA. The fourth evidence of a neurogenic factor in muscular dystrophy was derived from an examination of SDH preparations of muscle. There was a preponderance of type I muscle fibres in dystrophic muscles compared with specimens from controls, suggesting depletion of type II fibres. It appears that the concept of muscular dystrophy as a primary muscle disease needs to be re-examined.
PMCID: PMC494339  PMID: 4714102
8.  Anti-Dystrophin T Cell Responses in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Prevalence and a Glucocorticoid Treatment Effect 
Human Gene Therapy  2013;24(9):797-806.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) typically occurs as a result of truncating mutations in the DMD gene that result in a lack of expression of the dystrophin protein in muscle fibers. Various therapies under development are directed toward restoring dystrophin expression at the subsarcolemmal membrane, including gene transfer. In a trial of intramuscular adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated delivery of a therapeutic minidystrophin construct, we identified in two of six subjects the presence of a population of T cells that had been primed to recognize dystrophin epitopes before transgene delivery. As the presence of preexisting T cell immunity may have a significant effect on the success of therapeutic approaches for restoring dystrophin, we sought to determine the prevalence of such immunity within a DMD cohort from our Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic. Dystrophin-specific T cell immunity was evaluated in subjects with DMD who were either receiving the glucocorticoid steroid prednisone (n=24) or deflazacort (n=29), or who were not receiving steroids (n=17), as well as from normal age-matched control subjects (n=21). We demonstrate that increasing age correlates with an increased risk for the presence of anti-dystrophin T cell immunity, and that treatment with either corticosteroid decreases risk compared with no treatment, suggesting that steroid therapy in part may derive some of its benefit through modulation of T cell responses. The frequency of dystrophin-specific T cells detected by enzyme-linked immunospot assay was lower in subjects treated with deflazacort versus prednisone, despite similar overall corticosteroid exposure, suggesting that the effects of the two corticosteroids may not be identical in patients with DMD. T cells targeted epitopes upstream and downstream of the dystrophin gene mutation and involved the CD4+ helper and/or CD8+ cytotoxic subsets. Our data confirm the presence of preexisting circulating T cell immunity to dystrophin in a sizable proportion of patients with DMD, and emphasize the need to consider this in the design and interpretation of clinical gene therapy trials.
Flanigan and colleagues characterize the prevalence of preexisting dystrophin-specific T cells in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients. They identify CD4+ and CD8+ T cell populations targeting epitopes upstream and downstream of dystrophin mutations in a significant fraction of patients. They further demonstrate a lower frequency of dystrophin-specific T cells in patients receiving glucocorticoid therapy. These findings suggest important considerations for future DMD gene therapy trials and offer new insight into the mechanism of glucocorticoid therapy for DMD.
PMCID: PMC3768239  PMID: 24010700
9.  Diaphragm thickness and inspiratory strength in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Thorax  1997;52(5):472-475.
BACKGROUND: There is little information on the morphometric characteristics of the diaphragm in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. METHODS: The thickness of the diaphragm was measured at the zone of apposition using B mode ultrasonography in 10 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy of mean (SD) age 10.3 (1.3) years and 12 normal controls of mean (SD) age 11.3 (2.0) years during relaxation (DiTrelax) and during maximum effort inspiratory manoeuvres (DiTPimax) at functional residual capacity. RESULTS: DiTrelax was greater in the patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (1.74 (0.21) mm) than in controls (1.48 (0.20) mm), mean difference (95% CI) 0.26 (0.08 to 0.44), despite considerable impairment of maximum effort inspiratory mouth pressure (Pimax) (patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy -37 (8) cm H2O, controls -80 (33) cm H2O), mean difference (95% CI) 43 (65 to 20). During a Pimax manoeuvre, compared with measurements taken during relaxation, the diaphragm thickened 1.6 times in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and 2.3 times in controls (DiTPimax 2.62 (0.7) mm and 3.5 (0.85) mm, respectively), mean difference (95% CI) - 0.88 (-1.58 to -0.18). CONCLUSIONS: Resting diaphragm thickness is increased in young patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy with impaired respiratory muscle force. This finding could be analogous to the pseudo-hypertrophy that is observed in some limb muscle groups. 

PMCID: PMC1758554  PMID: 9176541
10.  The progress reports on the development of therapies of Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Acta Myologica  2009;28(2):62-65.
The roots of the progress reports on the development of therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) that since 2000 have been produced at Breitnau/Germany and distributed to the parents of DMD patients cover over 30 years of continual occupation with this disease. The beginning was marked by the development of an early detection programme for the genetic disposition for DMD in infant boys. The next step was the organisation of workshops on the management of DMD and the writing of progress reports on these and other relevant conferences. Getting acquainted with the ideas of the protagonists in the research field by holding interviews was a decisive prerequisite for this activity. This took place in tandem with the development of a new kind of multiplex “family letters” that attempted to answer frequently asked questions to many DMD families at the same time.
When – with the beginning of the new millennium – the endeavours towards gene therapies for DMD started to boom all over the scientific world, progress reports designed to keep the families informed about research on DMD treatment were added to the family letters. These reports that give an account of the latest state of the research are written in a plain language that can be understood by laypersons. In the meantime the reports have adopted the character of reviews that are updated annually. They are written in English and German and translated into Spanish and many other languages.
PMCID: PMC2858951  PMID: 20128138
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; CK screening; multiplex family letters; progress reports; gene therapy; exon skipping
11.  Low incidence of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C revealed by a mutation study in Japanese patients clinically diagnosed with DMD 
BMC Medical Genetics  2010;11:49.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C (LGMD2C) is an autosomal recessive muscle dystrophy that resembles Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Although DMD is known to affect one in every 3500 males regardless of race, a widespread founder mutation causing LGMD2C has been described in North Africa. However, the incidence of LGMD2C in Japanese has been unknown because the genetic background remains uncharacterized in many patients clinically diagnosed with DMD.
We enrolled 324 patients referred to the Kobe University Hospital with suspected DMD. Mutations in the dystrophin or the SGCG genes were analyzed using not only genomic DNA but also cDNA.
In 322 of the 324 patients, responsible mutations in the dystrophin were successfully revealed, confirming DMD diagnosis. The remaining two patients had normal dystrophin expression but absence of γ-sarcoglycan in skeletal muscle. Mutation analysis of the SGCG gene revealed homozygous deletion of exon 6 in one patient, while the other had a novel single nucleotide insertion in exon 7 in one allele and deletion of exon 6 in the other allele. These mutations created a stop codon that led to a γ-sarcoglycan deficiency, and we therefore diagnosed these two patients as having LGMD2C. Thus, the relative incidence of LGMD2C among Japanese DMD-like patients can be calculated as 1 in 161 patients suspected to have DMD (2 of 324 patients = 0.6%). Taking into consideration the DMD incidence for the overall population (1/3,500 males), the incidence of LGMD2C can be estimated as 1 per 560,000 or 1.8 per million.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a low incidence of LGMD2C in the Japanese population.
PMCID: PMC2861025  PMID: 20350330
12.  A Sensitive, Reproducible and Objective Immunofluorescence Analysis Method of Dystrophin in Individual Fibers in Samples from Patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107494.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by the absence or reduced levels of dystrophin expression on the inner surface of the sarcolemmal membrane of muscle fibers. Clinical development of therapeutic approaches aiming to increase dystrophin levels requires sensitive and reproducible measurement of differences in dystrophin expression in muscle biopsies of treated patients with DMD. This, however, poses a technical challenge due to intra- and inter-donor variance in the occurrence of revertant fibers and low trace dystrophin expression throughout the biopsies. We have developed an immunofluorescence and semi-automated image analysis method that measures the sarcolemmal dystrophin intensity per individual fiber for the entire fiber population in a muscle biopsy. Cross-sections of muscle co-stained for dystrophin and spectrin have been imaged by confocal microscopy, and image analysis was performed using Definiens software. Dystrophin intensity has been measured in the sarcolemmal mask of spectrin for each individual muscle fiber and multiple membrane intensity parameters (mean, maximum, quantiles per fiber) were calculated. A histogram can depict the distribution of dystrophin intensities for the fiber population in the biopsy. This method was tested by measuring dystrophin in DMD, Becker muscular dystrophy, and healthy muscle samples. Analysis of duplicate or quadruplicate sections of DMD biopsies on the same or multiple days, by different operators, or using different antibodies, was shown to be objective and reproducible (inter-assay precision, CV 2–17% and intra-assay precision, CV 2–10%). Moreover, the method was sufficiently sensitive to detect consistently small differences in dystrophin between two biopsies from a patient with DMD before and after treatment with an investigational compound.
PMCID: PMC4171506  PMID: 25244123
13.  The Natural History of Cardiac and Pulmonary Function Decline in Patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Spine  2011;36(15):E1009-E1017.
Study Design
Retrospective review of scoliosis progression, pulmonary and cardiac function in a series of patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
To determine whether operative treatment of scoliosis decreases the rate of pulmonary function loss in patients with DMD.
Summary of Background Data
It is generally accepted that surgical intervention should be undertaken in DMD scoliosis once curve sizes reach 35 degrees to allow intervention before critical respiratory decline has occurred. There are conflicting reports, however, regarding the effect of scoliosis stabilization on the rate of pulmonary function decline when compared to non operative cohorts.
We reviewed spinal radiographs, echocardiograms, and spirometry, hospital, and operative records of all patients seen at our tertiary referral center from July 1, 1992 to June 1, 2007 Data was recorded to Microsoft Excel and analyzed with SAS and R statistical processing software.
The percent predicted forced vital capacity (PPFVC) decreased 5% /year prior to operation. The mean PPFVC was 54% (sd=21%) prior to operation with a mean postoperative PPFVC of 43% (sd=14%). Surgical treatment was associated with a 12% decline in PPFVC independent of other treatment variables. PPFVC after operation declined at a rate of 1% per year and while this rate was lower, it was not significantly different than the rate of decline present prior to operation (p=0.18). Cardiac function as measured by left ventricular fractional shortening declined at a rate of 1%/year with most individuals exhibiting an LVFS rate of >30 prior to operation.
Operative treatment of scoliosis in DMD using the Luque Galveston method was associated with a reduction of FVC related to operation. The rate of pulmonary function decline after operation was not significantly reduced when compared to the rate of preoperative FVC decline.
PMCID: PMC3120906  PMID: 21289561
14.  Dystrophin quantification and clinical correlations in Becker muscular dystrophy: implications for clinical trials 
Brain  2011;134(12):3544-3556.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the DMD gene that disrupt the open reading frame and prevent the full translation of its protein product, dystrophin. Restoration of the open reading frame and dystrophin production can be achieved by exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides targeted to splicing elements. This approach aims to transform the Duchenne muscular dystrophy phenotype to that of the milder disorder, Becker muscular dystrophy, typically caused by in-frame dystrophin deletions that allow the production of an internally deleted but partially functional dystrophin. There is ongoing debate regarding the functional properties of the different internally deleted dystrophins produced by exon skipping for different mutations; more insight would be valuable to improve and better predict the outcome of exon skipping clinical trials. To this end, we have characterized the clinical phenotype of 17 patients with Becker muscular dystrophy harbouring in-frame deletions relevant to on-going or planned exon skipping clinical trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and correlated it to the levels of dystrophin, and dystrophin-associated protein expression. The cohort of 17 patients, selected exclusively on the basis of their genotype, included 4 asymptomatic, 12 mild and 1 severe patient. All patients had dystrophin levels of >40% of control and significantly higher dystrophin (P = 0.013), β-dystroglycan (P = 0.025) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (P = 0.034) expression was observed in asymptomatic individuals versus symptomatic patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, grouping the patients by deletion, patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions with an end-point of exon 51 (the skipping of which could rescue the largest group of Duchenne muscular dystrophy deletions) showed significantly higher dystrophin levels (P = 0.034) than those with deletions ending with exon 53. This is the first quantitative study on both dystrophin and dystrophin-associated protein expression in patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions relevant for on-going exon skipping trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Taken together, our results indicate that all varieties of internally deleted dystrophin assessed in this study have the functional capability to provide a substantial clinical benefit to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3235564  PMID: 22102647
Becker muscular dystrophy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; nNOS; dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex; therapy
15.  The burden of Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neurology  2014;83(6):529-536.
The objective of this study was to estimate the total cost of illness and economic burden of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Patients with DMD from Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States were identified through Translational Research in Europe–Assessment & Treatment of Neuromuscular Diseases registries and invited to complete a questionnaire online together with a caregiver. Data on health care use, quality of life, work status, informal care, and household expenses were collected to estimate costs of DMD from the perspective of society and caregiver households.
A total of 770 patients (173 German, 122 Italian, 191 from the United Kingdom, and 284 from the United States) completed the questionnaire. Mean per-patient annual direct cost of illness was estimated at between $23,920 and $54,270 (2012 international dollars), 7 to 16 times higher than the mean per-capita health expenditure in these countries. Indirect and informal care costs were substantial, each constituting between 18% and 43% of total costs. The total societal burden was estimated at between $80,120 and $120,910 per patient and annum, and increased markedly with disease progression. The corresponding household burden was estimated at between $58,440 and $71,900.
We show that DMD is associated with a substantial economic burden. Our results underscore the many different costs accompanying a rare condition such as DMD and the considerable economic burden carried by affected families. Our description of the previously unknown economic context of a rare disease serves as important intelligence input to health policy evaluations of intervention programs and novel therapies, financial support schemes for patients and their families, and the design of future cost studies.
PMCID: PMC4141999  PMID: 24991029
16.  A comprehensive database of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy patients (0–18 years old) in East China 
Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies (DMD/BMD). However, clinical trials with new therapeutic strategies are being conducted or considered. A comprehensive database is critical for patient recruitment and efficacy evaluation. China has the largest population, yet, no comprehensive database for DMD/BMD is available. Our study registered the data of the DMD/BMD patients in East China.
A modified registry form of Remudy ( was applied to Chinese DMD/BMD patients through the outpatient clinic at Children’s Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai during the period of August 2011 to December 2013. The data included geographic distribution of patients, age at diagnosis, clinical manifestation, genetic analysis and treatment status.
194 DMD and 35 BMD patients were registered. Most patients lived in East China, namely Jiangsu province, Anhui province, Zhejiang province, Jiangxi province, Shanghai, Fujian province and Shandong province. All individuals aged less than 18 years (age limit to a children’s hospital). Diagnosis was made for a majority of patients during the age of 3–4 (16.6%) and 7–8 (14.8%) years old. Exon deletion was the most frequent genetic mutations (65.5% and 74.3%) followed by point mutations (14.4% and 11.4%), duplications (9.8% and 8.6%) and small insertion/deletion (9.3% and 2.9%) for DMD and BMD, respectively. 82.5% of DMD registrants were ambulatory, and all the BMD registrants were able to walk. 26.3% of DMD registrants have been treated with steroids. Cardiac functions were examined for 46.4% DMD boys and 45.7% BMD boys and respiratory functions were examined for 18.6% DMD boys and 14.3% BMD boys. Four boys with abnormal cardiac function were prescribed for treatment with cardiac medicine. 33.2% of DMD patients are eligible for exon skipping therapy, and among them 9.2% and 4.3% patients are eligible for skipping exon 51 and 53, respectively.
The database is the first linking accurate genetic diagnosis with clinical manifestation and treatment status of dystrophinopathy patients in East China. It provides comprehensive information essential for further patient management, especially for promotion of international cooperation in developing experimental therapies such as exon skipping and read-through of nonsense mutations targeting a subgroup of DMD patient population.
PMCID: PMC4323212  PMID: 25612904
Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy; The CHFU database; Patient management
17.  Chronic Administration of a Leupeptin-Derived Calpain Inhibitor Fails to Ameliorate Severe Muscle Pathology in a Canine Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Calpains likely play a role in the pathogenesis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Accordingly, calpain inhibition may provide therapeutic benefit to DMD patients. In the present study, we sought to measure benefit from administration of a novel calpain inhibitor, C101, in a canine muscular dystrophy model. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that treatment with C101 mitigates progressive weakness and severe muscle pathology observed in young dogs with golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD). Young (6-week-old) GRMD dogs were treated daily with either C101 (17 mg/kg twice daily oral dose, n = 9) or placebo (vehicle only, n = 7) for 8 weeks. A battery of functional tests, including tibiotarsal joint angle, muscle/fat composition, and pelvic limb muscle strength were performed at baseline and every 2 weeks during the 8-week study. Results indicate that C101-treated GRMD dogs maintained strength in their cranial pelvic limb muscles (tibiotarsal flexors) while placebo-treated dogs progressively lost strength. However, concomitant improvement was not observed in posterior pelvic limb muscles (tibiotarsal extensors). C101 treatment did not mitigate force drop following repeated eccentric contractions and no improvement was seen in the development of joint contractures, lean muscle mass, or muscle histopathology. Taken together, these data do not support the hypothesis that treatment with C101 mitigates progressive weakness or ameliorates severe muscle pathology observed in young dogs with GRMD.
PMCID: PMC3253583  PMID: 22291646
muscular dystrophy; animal; calpain; skeletal muscle; protease; canine
18.  Three novel serum biomarkers, miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-206 for Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, and Becker muscular dystrophy 
Muscular dystrophies are a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of inherited myogenic disorders. In clinical tests for these diseases, creatine kinase (CK) is generally used as diagnostic blood-based biomarker. However, because CK levels can be altered by various other factors, such as vigorous exercise, etc., false positive is observed. Therefore, three microRNAs (miRNAs), miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-206, were previously reported as alternative biomarkers for duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). However, no alternative biomarkers have been established for the other muscular dystrophies.
We, therefore, evaluated whether these miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-206 can be used as powerful biomarkers using the serum from muscular dystrophy patients including DMD, myotonic dystrophy 1 (DM1), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), and distal myopathy with rimmed vacuoles (DMRV) by qualitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification assay.
Statistical analysis indicated that all these miRNA levels in serum represented no significant differences between all muscle disorders examined in this study and controls by Bonferroni correction. However, some of these indicated significant differences without correction for testing multiple diseases (P < 0.05). The median values of miR-1 levels in the serum of patients with LGMD, FSHD, and BMD were approximately 5.5, 3.3 and 1.7 compared to that in controls, 0.68, respectively. Similarly, those of miR-133a and miR-206 levels in the serum of BMD patients were about 2.5 and 2.1 compared to those in controls, 1.03 and 1.32, respectively.
Taken together, our data demonstrate that levels of miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-206 in serum of BMD and miR-1 in sera of LGMD and FSHD patients showed no significant differences compared with those of controls by Bonferroni correction. However, the results might need increase in sample sizes to evaluate these three miRNAs as variable biomarkers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12199-014-0405-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4235845  PMID: 25150707
microRNAs; Biomarker; Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; Becker muscular dystrophy
19.  Dystromirs as Serum Biomarkers for Monitoring the Disease Severity in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80263.
Duchenne muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is an inherited disease caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene that disrupt the open reading frame, while in frame mutations result in Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy (UCMD) is due to mutations affecting collagen VI genes. Specific muscle miRNAs (dystromirs) are potential non-invasive biomarkers for monitoring the outcome of therapeutic interventions and disease progression. We quantified miR-1, miR-133a,b, miR-206 and miR-31 in serum from patients with DMD, BMD, UCMD and healthy controls. MiR-1, miR-133a,b and miR-206 were upregulated in DMD, but unchanged in UCMD compared to controls. Milder DMD patients had higher levels of dystromirs than more severely affected patients. Patients with low forced vital capacity (FVC) values, indicating respiratory muscle weakness, had low levels of serum miR-1 and miR-133b. There was no significant difference in the level of the dystromirs in BMD compared to controls.
We also assessed the effect of dystrophin restoration on the expression of the five dystromirs in serum of DMD patients treated systemically for 12 weeks with antisense oligomer eteplirsen that induces skipping of exon 51 in the dystrophin gene. The dystromirs were also analysed in muscle biopsies of DMD patients included in a single dose intramuscular eteplirsen clinical trial. Our analysis detected a trend towards normalization of these miRNA between the pre- and post-treatment samples of the systemic trial, which however failed to reach statistical significance. This could possibly be due to the small number of patients and the short duration of these clinical trials.
Although longer term studies are needed to clarify the relationship between dystrophin restoration following therapeutic intervention and the level of circulating miRNAs, our results indicate that miR-1 and miR-133 can be considered as exploratory biomarkers for monitoring the progression of muscle weakness and indirectly the remaining muscle mass in DMD.
PMCID: PMC3840009  PMID: 24282529
20.  Long-term ventilation of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy: experiences at the Neuromuscular Centre Ulm 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(3):170-178.
The various measures used to treat the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), i.e. medication with steroids, early operation on contractures and spine deformities as well as cardiac diagnostics and therapy, should always be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient's respiratory status. Therapy for respiratory failure, in particular long-term ventilation, is now generally accepted as essential for DMD patients. The provision of assisted ventilation has made a decisive contribution to the quality of life for older patients and the stigma hitherto attached to it as being merely a means of keeping a patient comfortable towards the end of life has now been dispelled. Even outside the hospital, assisted ventilation has become routine. These days it is not uncommon for patients on assisted ventilation to have their life extended by 10 years or more.
Non-invasive ventilation is sufficient if used concomitantly with coughing aids. Before undergoing orthopaedic surgery the patient' s respiratory status has to be carefully assessed in order to minimize the risk of perioperative complications. Feeding and swallowing problems may develop if the patient has a scoliosis of the cervical spine region, even if he has had thoraco-lumbar spine surgery. There is still insufficient awareness of this potential problem in relation to respiratory care.
Interdisciplinary collaboration between hospitals, general practitioners, muscle and respiratory centres, as well as advocacies and self-help groups is vital. The administration of aids to support DMD patients is now facilitated by guidelines drawn up by several centres of excellence. Here we mainly describe the historic development of respiratory care at the Ulm Neuromuscular Centre.
PMCID: PMC3631799  PMID: 23620648
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; respiratory failure; non-invasive ventilation; increased survival
21.  Upper Limb Strength and Function Changes during a One-Year Follow-Up in Non-Ambulant Patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: An Observational Multicenter Trial 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0113999.
Upper limb evaluation of patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is crucially important to evaluations of efficacy of new treatments in non-ambulant patients. In patients who have lost ambulation, there are few validated and informative outcome measures. In addition, longitudinal data demonstrating sensitivity to clinical evolution of outcome measures over short-term periods are lacking.
Patients and Methods
We report here the results of a one-year multicenter study using specifically designed tools to assess grip, pinch strength, and hand function in wheelchair-bound patients. Our study assessed 53 non-ambulant patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy aged 17.1 ± 4.8 years (range: 9 – 28.1 years). The average Brooke functional score of these patients was 4.6 ± 1.1. The average forced vital capacity was 44.5% predicted and 19 patients used non-invasive ventilation. Patients were assessed at baseline, 6 months, and one year using the Motor Function Measure and innovative devices (namely the MyoSet composed of MyoGrip, MyoPinch, and MoviPlate).
Our study confirmed preliminary data previously reported regarding feasibility of use and of reliability of the MyoSet and the correlation at baseline between distal strength and clinical outcomes such as FVC, Brooke score, age, and duration since loss of ambulation. A significant correlation was observed between the distal upper limb strength and clinical variables. The sensitive dynamometers (MyoGrip and MyoPinch) and MoviPlate captured a 12-month change in non-ambulant Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients of all ages.
Trial Registration NCT00993161 NCT00993161
PMCID: PMC4314080  PMID: 25643053
22.  X-Linked Dilated Cardiomyopathy: A Cardiospecific Phenotype of Dystrophinopathy 
Pharmaceuticals  2015;8(2):303-320.
X-linked dilated cardiomyopathy (XLDCM) is a distinct phenotype of dystrophinopathy characterized by preferential cardiac involvement without any overt skeletal myopathy. XLDCM is caused by mutations of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) gene and results in lethal heart failure in individuals between 10 and 20 years. Patients with Becker muscular dystrophy, an allelic disorder, have a milder phenotype of skeletal muscle involvement compared to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and sometimes present with dilated cardiomyopathy. The precise relationship between mutations in the DMD gene and cardiomyopathy remain unclear. However, some hypothetical mechanisms are being considered to be associated with the presence of some several dystrophin isoforms, certain reported mutations, and an unknown dystrophin-related pathophysiological mechanism. Recent therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the severe dystrophinopathy phenotype, appears promising, but the presence of XLDCM highlights the importance of focusing on cardiomyopathy while elucidating the pathomechanism and developing treatment.
PMCID: PMC4491663  PMID: 26066469
dystrophin; DMD gene; dilated cardiomyopathy; XLDCM
23.  Magnetic resonance imaging of the erector spinae muscles in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: implication for scoliotic deformities 
Scoliosis  2008;3:21.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the muscular degeneration often leads to the development of scoliosis. Our objective was to investigate how anatomical changes in back muscles can lead to scoliosis. Muscular volume and the level of fat infiltration in those muscles were thus evaluated, in non-scoliotic, pre-scoliotic and scoliotic patients. The overlying skin thickness over the apex level of scoliotic deformations was also measured to facilitate the interpretation of electromyographic signals when recorded on the skin surface.
In 8 DMD patients and two healthy controls with no known muscular deficiencies, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure continuously at 3 mm intervals the distribution of the erector spinae (ES) muscle in the T8-L4 region as well as fat infiltration in the muscle and overlying skin thickness: four patients were non-scoliotic (NS), two were pre-scoliotic (PS, Cobb angle < 15°) and two were scoliotic (S, Cobb angle ≥ 15°). For each subject, 63 images 3 mm thick of the ES muscle were obtained in the T8-L4 region on both sides of the spine. The pixel dimension was 0.39 × 0.39 mm. With a commercial software, on each 12 bits image, the ES contour on the left and on the right sides of the spine were manually determined as well as those of its constituents i.e., the iliocostalis (IL), the longissimus (LO) and the spinalis (SP) muscles. Following this segmentation, the surfaces within the contours were determined, the muscles volume were obtained, the amount of fat infiltration inside each muscle was evaluated and the overlying skin thickness measured.
The volume of the ES muscle of our S and PS patients was found smaller on the convex side relative to the concave one by 5.3 ± 0.7% and 2.8 ± 0.2% respectively. For the 4 NS patients, the volume difference of this muscle between right and left sides was 2.1 ± 1.5% and for the 2 controls, it was 1.4 ± 1.2%. Fat infiltration for the S and the PS patients was larger on the convex side than on the concave one (4.4 ± 1.6% and 4.5 ± 0.7% respectively) and the difference was more important near the apex. Infiltration was more important in the lateral IL muscle than in the medial SP and it was always larger near L2 than at any other spinal level. Fat infiltration was much more important in the ES for the DMD patients (49.9% ± 1.6%) than for the two controls (2.6 ± 0.8%). As for the overlying skin thickness measured near the deformity of the patients, it was larger on the concave than on the convex side: 14.8 ± 6.1 vs 13.5 ± 5.7 mm for the S and 10.3 ± 6.3 vs 9.8 ± 5.6 mm for the PS.
In DMD patients, our results indicate that a larger replacement of muscles fibers by fat infiltration on one side of the spine is a factor that can lead to the development of scoliosis. Efforts to slow such an infiltration on the most affected side of the spine could thus be beneficial to those patients by delaying the apparition of the scoliotic deformation. In addition to anatomical considerations, results obtained from the same patients but in experiments dealing with electromyography recordings, point to differences in the muscular contraction mechanisms and/or of the neural input to back muscles. This is similar to the adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) where a role of the nervous system in the development of the deformation has also been suggested.
PMCID: PMC2642764  PMID: 19114022
24.  Sildenafil reduces respiratory muscle weakness and fibrosis in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
The Journal of pathology  2012;228(1):77-87.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common form of muscular dystrophy caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Loss of dystrophin initiates a progressive decline in skeletal muscle integrity and contractile capacity which weakens respiratory muscles including the diaphragm, culminating in respiratory failure, the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in DMD patients. At present, corticosteroid treatment is the primary pharmacological intervention in DMD, but has limited efficacy and adverse side effects. Thus, there is an urgent need for new safe, cost-effective, and rapidly implementable treatments that slow disease progression. One promising new approach is the amplification of nitric oxide–cyclic guanosine monophosphate (NO–cGMP) signalling pathways with phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors serve to amplify NO signalling that is attenuated in many neuromuscular diseases including DMD. We report here that a 14-week treatment of the mdx mouse model of DMD with the PDE5 inhibitor sildenafil (Viagra®, Revatio®) significantly reduced mdx diaphragm muscle weakness without impacting fatigue resistance. In addition to enhancing respiratory muscle contractility, sildenafil also promoted normal extracellular matrix organization. PDE5 inhibition slowed the establishment of mdx diaphragm fibrosis and reduced matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) expression. Sildenafil also normalized the expression of the pro-fibrotic (and pro-inflammatory) cytokine tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα). Sildenafil-treated mdx diaphragms accumulated significantly less Evans Blue tracer dye than untreated controls, which is also indicative of improved diaphragm muscle health. We conclude that sildenafil-mediated PDE5 inhibition significantly reduces diaphragm respiratory muscle dysfunction and pathology in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This study provides new insights into the therapeutic utility of targeting defects in NO–cGMP signalling with PDE5 inhibitors in dystrophin-deficient muscle.
PMCID: PMC4067455  PMID: 22653783
dystrophin; mdx; nitric oxide; cGMP; sildenafil; PDE5; fibrosis; TNFα; MMP-13; diaphragm
25.  Use of imaging biomarkers to assess perfusion and glucose metabolism in the skeletal muscle of dystrophic mice 
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe neuromuscular disease that affects 1 in 3500 boys. The disease is characterized by progressive muscle degeneration that results from mutations in or loss of the cytoskeletal protein, dystrophin, from the glycoprotein membrane complex, thus increasing the susceptibility of contractile muscle to injury. To date, disease progression is typically assessed using invasive techniques such as muscle biopsies, and while there are recent reports of the use of magnetic resonance, ultrasound and optical imaging technologies to address the issue of disease progression and monitoring therapeutic intervention in dystrophic mice, our study aims to validate the use of imaging biomarkers (muscle perfusion and metabolism) in a longitudinal assessment of skeletal muscle degeneration/regeneration in two murine models of muscular dystrophy.
Wild-type (w.t.) and dystrophic mice (weakly-affected mdx mice that are characterized by a point mutation in dystrophin; severely-affected mdx:utrn-/- (udx) mice that lack functional dystrophin and are null for utrophin) were exercised three times a week for 30 minutes. To follow the progression of DMD, accumulation of 18 F-FDG, a measure of glucose metabolism, in both wild-type and affected mice was measured with a small animal PET scanner (GE eXplore Vista). To assess changes in blood flow and blood volume in the hind limb skeletal muscle, mice were injected intravenously with a CT contrast agent, and imaged with a small animal CT scanner (GE eXplore Ultra).
In hind limb skeletal muscle of both weakly-affected mdx mice and in severely-affected udx mice, we demonstrate an early, transient increase in both 18F-FDG uptake, and in blood flow and blood volume. Histological analysis of H&E-stained tissue collected from parallel littermates demonstrates the presence of both inflammatory infiltrate and centrally-located nuclei, a classic hallmark of myofibrillar regeneration. In both groups of affected mice, the early transient response was succeeded by a progressive decline in muscle perfusion and metabolism; this was also evidenced histologically.
The present study demonstrates the utility of non-invasive imaging biomarkers in characterizing muscle degeneration/regeneration in murine models of DMD. These techniques may now provide a promising alternative for assessing both disease progression and the efficacy of new therapeutic treatments in patients.
PMCID: PMC3141608  PMID: 21639930

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