Poor bone health is a significant problem for patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a progressive, disabling disease. Although the primary focus of DMD disease pathogenesis is degeneration of striated muscle, impairment of bone health likely has a role in the disease that has only been superficially examined to date. Deficiency of bone mineral density and increased incidence of bone fractures are well-recognized clinical components of the DMD phenotype. Furthermore, therapy with corticosteroids, an approved treatment for DMD that prolongs ambulation, may have multiple effects on bone health in DMD patients. This review examines the evidence in preclinical models and in human DMD disease that provides insight into the role performed by bone in the disease pathogenesis and phenotype of DMD. The information reviewed here points toward the need for mechanistic and therapeutic studies to optimize bone health in DMD patients.
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.
muscular dystrophy; heart; cardiomyopathy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; sarcoglycan
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating X-linked muscle disorder characterized by muscle wasting which is caused by mutations in the DMD gene. The DMD gene encodes the sarcolemmal protein dystrophin, and loss of dystrophin causes muscle degeneration and necrosis. Thus far, therapies for this disorder are unavailable. However, various therapeutic trials based on gene therapy, exon skipping, cell therapy, read through therapy, or pharmaceutical agents have been conducted extensively. In the development of therapy as well as elucidation of pathogenesis in DMD, appropriate animal models are needed. Various animal models of DMD have been identified, and mammalian (murine, canine, and feline) models are indispensable for the examination of the mechanisms of pathogenesis and the development of therapies. Here, we review the pathological features of DMD and therapeutic applications, especially of exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides and gene therapies using viral vectors in murine and canine models of DMD.
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.
DNA sequencing; Muscle; Muscular dystrophy; Stem cells; Zebrafish
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive genetic disease caused by mutations in the gene coding for the protein dystrophin. Recent work demonstrates that dystrophin is also found in the vasculature and its absence results in vascular deficiency and abnormal blood flow. This induces a state of ischemia further aggravating the muscular dystrophy pathogenesis. For an effective form of therapy of DMD, both the muscle and the vasculature need to be addressed. To reveal the developmental relationship between muscular dystrophy and vasculature, mdx mice, an animal model for DMD, were crossed with Flt-1 gene knockout mice to create a model with increased vasculature. Flt-1 is a decoy receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor, and therefore both homozygous (Flt-1−/−) and heterozygous (Flt-1+/−) Flt-1 gene knockout mice display increased endothelial cell proliferation and vascular density during embryogenesis. Here, we show that Flt-1+/− and mdx:Flt-1+/− adult mice also display a developmentally increased vascular density in skeletal muscle compared with the wild-type and mdx mice, respectively. The mdx:Flt-1+/− mice show improved muscle histology compared with the mdx mice with decreased fibrosis, calcification and membrane permeability. Functionally, the mdx:Flt-1+/− mice have an increase in muscle blood flow and force production, compared with the mdx mice. Consequently, the mdx:utrophin−/−:Flt-1+/− mice display improved muscle histology and significantly higher survival rates compared with the mdx:utrophin−/− mice, which show more severe muscle phenotypes than the mdx mice. These data suggest that increasing the vasculature in DMD may ameliorate the histological and functional phenotypes associated with this disease.
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.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; CK screening; multiplex family letters; progress reports; gene therapy; exon skipping
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked, progressive muscle-wasting disease caused by mutations in the DMD gene. Since the disease was described by physicians in the 19th century, information about the subject has been accumulated. One author (Sugita) was one of the coworkers who first reported that the serum creatine kinase (CK) level is elevated in progressive muscular dystrophy patients. Even 50 years after that first report, an elevated serum CK level is still the most useful marker in the diagnosis of DMD, a sensitive index of the state of skeletal muscle, and useful to evaluate therapeutic effects. In the latter half of this article, we describe recent progress in the therapy of DMD, with an emphasis on gene therapies, particularly exon skipping.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; exon skipping; out-of-frame mutation; clinical trial; antisense oligonucleotides
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common, lethal, X-linked genetic disease, affecting 1 in 3500 newborn males. It is caused by mutations in the DMD gene. Owing to the large size of the gene, the mutation rate in both germline and somatic cells is very high. Nearly 13–15% of DMD cases are caused by nonsense mutations leading to premature termination codons in the reading frame that results in truncated dystrophin protein. Currently there is no cure for DMD. The only available treatment is the use of glucocorticoids that have modest beneficial effects accompanied by significant side effects. Different therapeutic strategies have been developed ranging from gene therapy to exon skipping and nonsense mutation suppression to produce the full-length protein. These strategies have shown promise in the mdx mouse model of muscular dystrophy where they have been reported to ameliorate the dystrophic phenotype and correct the physiological defects in the membrane. Each of these molecular approaches are being investigated in clinical trials. Here we review nonsense mutation suppression by aminoglycosides as a therapeutic strategy to treat DMD with special emphasis on gentamicin-induced readthrough of disease-causing premature termination codons.
DMD; dystrophinopathy; gentamicin; readthrough; mutation suppression
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common genetic muscle disease affecting 1 in 3,500 live male births. It is an X-linked recessive disease caused by a defective dystrophin gene. The disease is characterized by progressive limb weakness, respiratory and cardiac failure and premature death. Fibrosis is a prominent pathological feature of muscle biopsies from patients with DMD. It directly causes muscle dysfunction and contributes to the lethal DMD phenotype. Although gene therapy and cell therapy may ultimately provide a cure for DMD, currently the disease is devastating, with no effective therapies. Recent studies have demonstrated that ameliorating muscle fibrosis may represent a viable therapeutic approach for DMD. By reducing scar formation, antifibrotic therapies may not only improve muscle function but also enhance muscle regeneration and promote gene and stem cell engraftment. Antifibrotic therapy may serve as a necessary addition to gene and cell therapies to treat DMD in the future. Therefore, understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying muscle fibrogenesis associated with dystrophin deficiency is key to the development of effective antifibrotic therapies for DMD.
Antifibrotic therapy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Muscle fibrosis
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), dystrophin deficiency leading to progressive muscular degeneration is caused by frame-shifting mutations in the DMD gene. Antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) aim to restore the reading frame by skipping of a specific exon(s), thereby allowing the production of a shorter, but semifunctional protein, as is found in the mostly more mildly affected patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. AONs are currently being investigated in phase 3 placebo-controlled clinical trials. Most of the participating patients are treated symptomatically with corticosteroids (mainly predniso[lo]ne) to stabilize the muscle fibers, which might affect the uptake and/or efficiency of AONs. Therefore the effect of prednisolone on 2′-O-methyl phosphorothioate AON efficacy in patient-derived cultured muscle cells and the mdx mouse model (after local and systemic AON treatment) was assessed in this study. Both in vitro and in vivo skip efficiency and biomarker expression were comparable between saline- and prednisolone-cotreated cells and mice. After systemic exon 23-specific AON (23AON) treatment for 8 weeks, dystrophin was detectable in all treated mice. Western blot analyses indicated slightly higher dystrophin levels in prednisolone-treated mice, which might be explained by better muscle condition and consequently more target dystrophin pre-mRNA. In addition, fibrotic and regeneration biomarkers were normalized to some extent in prednisolone- and/or 23AON-treated mice. Overall these results show that the use of prednisone forms no barrier to participation in clinical trials with AONs.
Verhaart and colleagues examine the effects of prednisolone, a corticosteroid, on the function of antisense oligonucleotide (AON) therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They show that prednisolone treatment does not interfere with AON uptake and exon-skipping levels in patient-derived muscle cells in vitro and in mdx mice in vivo. In fact, they suggest that prednisolone might even enhance the dystrophin expression induced by exon 23-specific AONs in mdx mice.
Muscular dystrophies such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are usually approached as dysfunctions of the affected skeletal myofibres and their force transmission. Comparatively little attention has been given to the increase in connective tissue (fibrosis) which accompanies these muscular changes. Interestingly, an increase in endomysial tissue is apparent long before any muscular degeneration can be observed. Fibrosis is the result of a reactive or reparative process involving mechanical, humoral and cellular factors. Originating from vulnerable myofibres, muscle cell necrosis and inflammatory processes are present in DMD. Muscular recovery is limited due to the limited number and capacity of satellite cells. Hence, a proactive and multimodal approach is necessary in order to activate protective mechanisms and to hinder catabolic and tissue degrading pathways.
Several avenues are discussed in terms of potential antifibrotic therapy approaches. These include pharmaceutical, nutritional, exercise-based and other mechanostimulatory modalities (such as massage or yoga-like stretching) with the intention of exerting an anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic effect on the affected muscular tissues. A preventive intervention at an early age is crucial, based on the early and seemingly non-reversible nature of the fibrotic tissue changes. Since consistent assessment is essential, different measurement technologies are discussed.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; fibrosis; endo- and perimysium; extracellular matrix; TGF-β1; myostatin; antifibrotic
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the commonest and best-known of the muscular dystrophies. Being an X-linked disorder, it affects mainly boys. The disease gene was identified in 1987, with the majority of mutations demonstrated to be large-scale deletions. Current best practice molecular diagnosis includes multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) followed by direct sequencing of all exons at the genomic level, or from cDNA, in order to detect point and other small mutations. The difference between DMD and the allelic Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) is whether the precise mutation in the gene is a null mutation or results in a modified still partially functional protein. Over the last few years, significant progress has been made in moving experimental therapies into clinical trials, with one of the most promising possible therapies being anti-sense oligonucleotide induced exon-skipping, which converts DMD to BMD. In order to maximise the benefit from future therapies, it will be necessary to start administering the therapies as early as possible in the life of the affected boys, before significant muscle loss occurs. This will require early diagnosis, which evidence suggests is best achieved through population screening. Population screening also allows the avoidance of multiple affected boys in families with no previous family history.
Antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) have the capacity to alter the processing of pre-mRNA transcripts in order to correct the function of aberrant disease-related genes. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal X-linked muscle degenerative disease that arises from mutations in the DMD gene leading to an absence of dystrophin protein. AOs have been shown to restore the expression of functional dystrophin via splice correction by intramuscular and systemic delivery in animal models of DMD and in DMD patients via intramuscular administration. Major challenges in developing this splice correction therapy are to optimise AO chemistry and to develop more effective systemic AO delivery. Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) AOs are an alternative AO chemistry with favourable in vivo biochemical properties and splice correcting abilities. Here we show long-term splice correction of the DMD gene in mdx mice following intramuscular PNA delivery and effective splice correction in aged mdx mice. Further, we report detailed optimisation of systemic PNA delivery dose regimens and PNA AO lengths to yield splice correction, with 25mer PNA AOs providing the greatest splice correcting efficacy, restoring dystrophin protein in multiple peripheral muscle groups. PNA AOs therefore provide an attractive candidate AO chemistry for DMD exon skipping therapy.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal neuromuscular disease for which there is no cure and limited treatment options. Prednisone is currently the first line treatment option for DMD and studies have demonstrated that it improves muscle strength. Although prednisone has been used for the treatment of DMD for decades, the mechanism of action of this drug remains unclear. Recent studies have shown that the α7β1 integrin is a major modifier of disease progression in mouse models of DMD and is therefore a target for drug-based therapies. In this study we examined whether prednisone increased α7β1 integrin levels in mdx mouse and GRMD dog models and myogenic cells from humans with DMD. Our results show that prednisone promotes an increase in α7 integrin protein in cultured myogenic cells and in the muscle of mdx and GRMD animal models of DMD. The prednisone-mediated increase in α7 integrin was associated with increased laminin-α2 in prednisone-treated dystrophin-deficient muscle. Together, our results suggest that prednisone acts in part through increased merosin in the muscle basal lamina and through sarcolemmal stabilization of α7β1 integrin in dystrophin-deficient muscle. These results indicate that therapies that target an increase in muscle α7β1 integrin, its signaling pathways and/or laminin could be therapeutic in DMD.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is the most common and severe form of muscular dystrophy in humans. The goal of myogenic stem cell transplant therapy for DMD is to increase dystrophin expression in existing muscle fibers and provide a source of stem cells for future muscle generation. Although syngeneic myogenic stem cell transplants have been successful in mice, allogeneic transplants of myogenic stem cells were ineffective in several human trials. To determine whether allogeneic muscle progenitor cells can be successfully transplanted in an immune tolerant recipient, we induced immune tolerance in two DMD affected (xmd) dogs through hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Injection of freshly isolated muscle-derived cells from the HCT donor into either fully or partially chimeric xmd recipients restored dystrophin expression up to 6.72% of wild-type levels, reduced the number of centrally located nuclei, and improved muscle structure. Dystrophin expression was maintained for at least 24 weeks. Taken together, these data indicate that immune tolerance to donor myoblasts provides an important platform from which to further improve myoblast transplantation, with the goal of restoring dystrophin expression to patients with DMD.
muscular dystrophy; transplantation; immune tolerance
The cardiomyopathy found in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is responsible for death due to heart failure in ∼30% of patients and additionally contributes to many DMD morbidities. Strategies to bypass DMD-causing mutations to allow an increase in body-wide dystrophin have proved promising, but increasing cardiac dystrophin continues to be challenging. The purpose of this study was to determine if therapeutic restoration of cardiac dystrophin improved the significant cardiac hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction identified in X-linked muscular dystrophy (mdx) dystrophin-null mouse due to a truncation mutation over time after treatment.
Methods and results
Mice lacking dystrophin due to a truncation mutation (mdx) were given an arginine-rich, cell-penetrating, peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PPMO) that delivered a splice-switching oligonucleotide-mediated exon skipping therapy to restore dystrophin in mdx mice before the development of detectable cardiomyopathy. PPMO successfully restored cardiac dystrophin expression, preserved cardiac sarcolemma integrity, and prevented the development of cardiac pathology that develops in mdx-null mice over time. By echocardiography and Doppler analysis of the mitral valve, we identified that PPMO treatment of mdx mice prevented the cardiac hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction identified in sham-treated, age-matched mdx mice, characteristic of DMD patients early in the disease process, in as little as 5–6 weeks after the initiation of treatment. Surprisingly, despite the short-term replacement of cardiac dystrophin (<1% present after 12 weeks by immunodetection), PPMO therapy also provided a durable cardiac improvement in cardiac hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction for up to 7 months after the initiation of treatment.
These results demonstrate for the first time that PPMO-mediated exon skipping therapy early in the course of DMD may effectively prevent or slow down associated cardiac hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction with significant long-term impact.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Morpholino; Oligomers; Cardiomyopathy; Therapy; Exon skipping; Alternative RNA splicing
Gene therapy studies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have focused on viral vector-mediated gene transfer to provide therapeutic protein expression or treatment with drugs to limit dystrophic changes in muscle. The pathological activation of the nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling pathway has emerged as an important cause of dystrophic muscle changes in muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, activation of NF-κB may inhibit gene transfer by promoting inflammation in response to the transgene or vector. Therefore, we hypothesized that inhibition of pathological NF-κB activation in muscle would complement the therapeutic benefits of dystrophin gene transfer in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Systemic gene transfer using serotype 9 adeno-associated viral (AAV9) vectors is promising for treatment of preclinical models of DMD because of vector tropism to cardiac and skeletal muscle. In quadriceps of C57BL/10ScSn-Dmdmdx/J (mdx) mice, the addition of octalysine (8K)–NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO)-binding domain (8K-NBD) peptide treatment to AAV9 minidystrophin gene delivery resulted in increased levels of recombinant dystrophin expression suggesting that 8K-NBD treatment promoted an environment in muscle tissue conducive to higher levels of expression. Indices of necrosis and regeneration were diminished with AAV9 gene delivery alone and to a greater degree with the addition of 8K-NBD treatment. In diaphragm muscle, high-level transgene expression was achieved with AAV9 minidystoophin gene delivery alone; therefore, improvements in histological and physiological indices were comparable in the two treatment groups. The data support benefit from 8K-NBD treatment to complement gene transfer therapy for DMD in muscle tissue that receives incomplete levels of transduction by gene transfer, which may be highly significant for clinical applications of muscle gene delivery.
A milestone of molecular medicine is the identification of dystrophin gene mutation as the cause of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Over the last 2 decades, major advances in dystrophin biology and gene delivery technology have created an opportunity to treat DMD with gene therapy. Remarkable success has been achieved in treating dystrophic mice. Several gene therapy strategies, including plasmid transfer, exon skipping, and adeno-associated virus-mediated microdystrophin therapy, have entered clinical trials. However, therapeutic benefit has not been realized in DMD patients. Bridging the gap between mice and humans is no doubt the most pressing issue facing DMD gene therapy now. In contrast to mice, dystrophin-deficient dogs are genetically and phenotypically similar to human patients. Preliminary gene therapy studies in the canine model may offer critical insights that cannot be obtained from murine studies. It is clear that the canine DMD model may represent an important link between mice and humans. Unfortunately, our current knowledge of dystrophic dogs is limited, and the full picture of disease progression remains to be clearly defined. We also lack rigorous outcome measures (such as in situ force measurement) to monitor therapeutic efficacy in dystrophic dogs. Undoubtedly, maintaining a dystrophic dog colony is technically demanding, and the cost of dog studies cannot be underestimated. A carefully coordinated effort from the entire DMD community is needed to make the best use of the precious dog resource. Successful DMD gene therapy may depend on valid translational studies in dystrophin-deficient dogs.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; gene therapy; dystrophin; adeno-associated virus; exon-skipping; canine model
Gene therapy holds great promise for curing Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most common fatal inherited childhood muscle disease. Success of DMD gene therapy depends upon functional improvement in both skeletal and cardiac muscle. Numerous gene transfer studies have been performed to correct skeletal muscle pathology, yet little is known about cardiomyopathy gene therapy. Since complete transduction of the entire heart is an impractical goal, it becomes critical to determine the minimal level of correction needed for successful DMD cardiomyopathy gene therapy. To address this question, we generated heterozygous mice that persistently expressed the full-length dystrophin gene in 50% of the cardiomyocytes of mdx mice, a model for DMD. We questioned whether dystrophin expression in half of the heart cells was sufficient to prevent stress-induced cardiomyopathy. Heart function of mdx mouse is normal in the absence of external stress. To determine the therapeutic effect, we challenged 3-month-old mice with β-isoproterenol. Cardiomyocyte sarcolemma integrity was significantly impaired in mdx but not in heterozygous and C57Bl/10 mice. Importantly, in vivo closed-chest hemodynamic assays revealed normal left ventricular function in β-isoproterenol-stimulated heterozygous mice. Since the expression profile in the heterozygous mice mimicked viral transduction, we conclude that gene therapy correction in 50% of the heart cells may be sufficient to treat cardiomyopathy in mdx mice. This finding may also apply to the gene therapy of other inherited cardiomyopathies.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated micro-dystrophin gene therapy holds great promise for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Previous studies have revealed excellent skeletal muscle protection. Cardiac muscle is also compromised in DMD patients. Here we show that a single intravenous injection of AAV serotype-9 (AAV-9) micro-dystrophin vector efficiently transduced the entire heart in neonatal mdx mice, a dystrophin-deficient mouse DMD model. Furthermore, micro-dystrophin therapy normalized the heart rate, PR interval and QT interval. Cardiomyopathy index was also significantly improved in treated mdx mice. Our study demonstrates for the first time that AAV micro-dystrophin gene therapy can ameliorate the electrocardiographic abnormalities in a mouse model for DMD.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated microdystrophin gene therapy holds great promise for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Previous studies have revealed excellent skeletal muscle protection. Cardiac muscle is also compromised in DMD patients. Here we show that a single intravenous injection of AAV serotype-9 (AAV-9) microdystrophin vector efficiently transduced the entire heart in neonatal mdx mice, a dystrophin-deficient mouse DMD model. Furthermore, microdystrophin therapy normalized the heart rate, PR interval, and QT interval. The cardiomyopathy index was also significantly improved in treated mdx mice. Our study demonstrates for the first time that AAV microdystrophin gene therapy can ameliorate the electrocardiographic abnormalities in a mouse model for DMD.
Muscular dystrophies are a heterogeneous group of genetic disorders characterized by muscle weakness and wasting. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common and severe form of muscular dystrophy, and although the molecular mechanisms of the disease have been extensively investigated since the discovery of the gene in 1986, there is currently no effective treatment. However, new gene-based therapies have recently emerged with particular noted advances in using conventional gene replacement strategies, RNA-based technology and pharmacological approaches. While the proof of principle has been demonstrated in animal models, several clinical trials have recently been undertaken to investigate the feasibility of these strategies in patients. In particular, antisense-mediated exon skipping has shown encouraging results and holds promise for the treatment of dystrophic muscle. Here, we summarize the recent progress in therapeutic approaches to muscular dystrophies, with an emphasis on gene therapy and exon skipping for DMD.
BACKGROUND—Respiratory failure is the commonest
cause of death in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Life
expectancy is less than one year once diurnal hypercapnia develops.
This study examines the effects of nasal intermittent positive pressure
ventilation (NIPPV) on survival in symptomatic Duchenne patients with
established ventilatory failure.
METHODS—Nocturnal NIPPV was applied in 23 consecutive patients with DMD of mean (SD) age 20.3 (3.4) years who
presented with diurnal and nocturnal hypercapnia.
RESULTS—One year and five year survival rates were
85% (95% CI 69 to 100) and 73% (95% CI 53 to 94), respectively.
Early changes in arterial blood gas tensions following NIPPV occurred
with mean (SD) PO2 increasing from 7.6 (2.1) kPa to 10.8 (1.3) kPa and mean (SD)
PCO2 falling from 10.3 (4.5) kPa to 6.1 (1.0) kPa. Improvements in arterial blood gas tensions were maintained
over five years. Health perception and social aspects of SF-36 health
related quality of life index were reported as equivalent to other
groups with non-progressive disorders using NIPPV.
CONCLUSION—Nasal ventilation is likely to increase
survival in hypercapnic patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and
should be considered as a treatment option when ventilatory failure develops.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a degenerative disorder affecting skeletal and cardiac muscle for which there is no effective therapy. Angiotension receptor blockade (ARB) has excellent therapeutic potential in DMD based on recent data demonstrating attenuation of skeletal muscle disease progression during 6–9 months of therapy in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Since cardiac-related death is major cause of mortality in DMD, it is important to evaluate the effect of any novel treatment on the heart. Therefore, we evaluated the long-term impact of ARB on both the skeletal muscle and cardiac phenotype of the mdx mouse. Mdx mice received either losartan (0.6 g/L) (n = 8) or standard drinking water (n = 9) for two years, after which echocardiography was performed to assess cardiac function. Skeletal muscle weight, morphology, and function were assessed. Fibrosis was evaluated in the diaphragm and heart by Trichrome stain and by determination of tissue hydroxyproline content. By the study endpoint, 88% of treated mice were alive compared to only 44% of untreated (p = 0.05). No difference in skeletal muscle morphology, function, or fibrosis was noted in losartan-treated animals. Cardiac function was significantly preserved with losartan treatment, with a trend towards reduction in cardiac fibrosis. We saw no impact on the skeletal muscle disease progression, suggesting that other pathways that trigger fibrosis dominate over angiotensin II in skeletal muscle long term, unlike the situation in the heart. Our study suggests that ARB may be an important prophylactic treatment for DMD-associated cardiomyopathy, but will not impact skeletal muscle disease.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal genetic disease caused by the absence of the sarcolemmal protein dystrophin. Dilated cardiomyopathy leading to heart failure is a significant source of morbidity and mortality in DMD. We recently demonstrated amelioration of DMD heart disease in 16 to 20-m-old dystrophin-null mdx mice using adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated micro-dystrophin gene therapy. DMD patients show severe heart disease near the end of their life expectancy. Similarly, mdx mice exhibit profoundly worsening heart disease when they reach beyond 21 months of age. To more rigorously test micro-dystrophin therapy, we treated mdx mice that were between 21.2 to 22.7-m-old (average, 22.1 ± 0.2 months; N=8). The ΔR4-23/ΔC micro-dystrophin gene was packaged in the cardiotropic AAV-9 virus. 5 × 1012 viral genome particles/mouse were delivered to mdx mice via the tail vein. AAV transduction, myocardial fibrosis and heart function were examined 1.7 ± 0.2 months after gene therapy. Efficient micro-dystrophin expression was observed in the myocardium of treated mice. Despite the robust dystrophin expression, myocardial fibrosis was not mitigated. Most hemodynamic parameters were not improved either. However, ECG abnormalities were partially corrected. Importantly, treated mice became more resistant to dobutamine-induced cardiac death. In summary, we have revealed for the first time the potential benefits and limitations of AAV micro-dystrophin therapy in end-stage Duchenne dilated cardiomyopathy. Our findings have important implications for the use of AAV gene therapy in dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure.
Dilated cardiomyopathy; heart failure; gene therapy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; AAV; Duchenne cardiomyopathy