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1.  Treatment of dysferlinopathy with deflazacort: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial 
Background
Dysferlinopathies are autosomal recessive disorders caused by mutations in the dysferlin (DYSF) gene encoding the dysferlin protein. DYSF mutations lead to a wide range of muscular phenotypes, with the most prominent being Miyoshi myopathy (MM) and limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B (LGMD2B).
Methods
We assessed the one-year-natural course of dysferlinopathy, and the safety and efficacy of deflazacort treatment in a double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial. After one year of natural course without intervention, 25 patients with genetically defined dysferlinopathy were randomized to receive deflazacort and placebo for six months each (1 mg/kg/day in month one, 1 mg/kg every 2nd day during months two to six) in one of two treatment sequences.
Results
During one year of natural course, muscle strength declined about 2% as measured by CIDD (Clinical Investigation of Duchenne Dystrophy) score, and 76 Newton as measured by hand-held dynamometry. Deflazacort did not improve muscle strength. In contrast, there is a trend of worsening muscle strength under deflazacort treatment, which recovers after discontinuation of the study drug. During deflazacort treatment, patients showed a broad spectrum of steroid side effects.
Conclusion
Deflazacort is not an effective therapy for dysferlinopathies, and off-label use is not warranted. This is an important finding, since steroid treatment should not be administered in patients with dysferlinopathy, who may be often misdiagnosed as polymyositis.
Trial registration
This clinical trial was registered at http://www.ClincalTrials.gov, identifier: NCT00527228, and was always freely accessible to the public.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-8-26
PMCID: PMC3617000  PMID: 23406536
Limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD); Dysferlinopathy; Therapy; Deflazacort; Muscle strength; Steroids
2.  Anti-Dystrophin T Cell Responses in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Prevalence and a Glucocorticoid Treatment Effect 
Human Gene Therapy  2013;24(9):797-806.
Abstract
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.
doi:10.1089/hum.2013.092
PMCID: PMC3768239  PMID: 24010700
3.  Online Self-Report Data for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Confirms Natural History and Can Be Used to Assess for Therapeutic Benefits  
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.md.e1e8f2be7c949f9ffe81ec6fca1cce6a.
To assess the utility of online patient self-report outcomes in a rare disease, we attempted to observe the effects of corticosteroids in delaying age at fulltime wheelchair use in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using data from 1,057 males from DuchenneConnect, an online registry. Data collected were compared to prior natural history data in regard to age at diagnosis, mutation spectrum, and age at loss of ambulation. Because registrants reported differences in steroid and other medication usage, as well as age and ambulation status, we could explore these data for correlations with age at loss of ambulation. Using multivariate analysis, current steroid usage was the most significant and largest independent predictor of improved wheelchair-free survival. Thus, these online self-report data were sufficient to retrospectively observe that current steroid use by patients with DMD is associated with a delay in loss of ambulation. Comparing commonly used steroid drugs, deflazacort prolonged ambulation longer than prednisone (median 14 years and 13 years, respectively). Further, use of Vitamin D and Coenzyme Q10, insurance status, and age at diagnosis after 4 years were also significant, but smaller, independent predictors of longer wheelchair-free survival. Nine other common supplements were also individually tested but had lower study power. This study demonstrates the utility of DuchenneConnect data to observe therapeutic differences, and highlights needs for improvement in quality and quantity of patient-report data, which may allow exploration of drug/therapeutic practice combinations impractical to study in clinical trial settings. Further, with the low barrier to participation, we anticipate substantial growth in the dataset in the coming years.
doi:10.1371/currents.md.e1e8f2be7c949f9ffe81ec6fca1cce6a
PMCID: PMC4207635  PMID: 25635234
4.  The glucocorticoid receptor N363S polymorphism and steroid response in Duchenne dystrophy 
Background
Steroid administration is beneficial in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), but the response, incidence, and the severity of side effects are variable.
Aims
To investigate whether glucocorticoid receptor (GRL) gene polymorphisms may be responsible for glucocorticoid sensitivity in DMD.
Methods
Forty eight DMD patients treated either with prednisone or deflazacort were subjected to genetic analyses of the GRL gene.
Results
Mutation studies revealed an heterozygous A to G mutation at GRL cDNA position 1220 in three DMD patients resulting in an asparagine to serine amino acid change at amino acid position 363 (N363S). The N363S carrier DMD patients showed a trend towards a later age at loss of ambulation in comparison with non‐carrier patients.
Conclusions
These data suggest that the N363S GRL polymorphism may be implicated in the long term response to glucocorticoids.
doi:10.1136/jnnp.2005.078345
PMCID: PMC2077532  PMID: 16980656
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; glucocorticoid receptor; SNP; steroid therapy
5.  Randomized, blinded trial of weekend vs daily prednisone in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neurology  2011;77(5):444-452.
Objective:
To perform a double-blind, randomized study comparing efficacy and safety of daily and weekend prednisone in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Methods:
A total of 64 boys with DMD who were between 4 and 10 years of age were randomized at 1 of 12 centers of the Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group. Efficacy and safety of 2 prednisone schedules (daily 0.75 mg/kg/day and weekend 10 mg/kg/wk) were evaluated over 12 months.
Results:
Equivalence was met for weekend and daily dosing of prednisone for the primary outcomes of quantitative muscle testing (QMT) arm score and QMT leg score. Secondary strength scores for QMT elbow flexors also showed equivalence between the 2 treatment groups. Overall side effect profiles of height and weight, bone density, cataract formation, blood pressure, and behavior, analyzed at 12 months, did not differ between weekend and daily dosing of prednisone.
Conclusions:
Weekend dosing of prednisone is equally beneficial to the standard daily dosing of prednisone. Analysis of side effect profiles demonstrated overall tolerability of both dosing regimens.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class I evidence that weekend prednisone dosing is as safe and effective as daily prednisone in preserving muscle strength and preventing body mass index increases in boys with DMD over a 12-month period.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318227b164
PMCID: PMC3146308  PMID: 21753160
6.  A comprehensive database of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy patients (0–18 years old) in East China 
Background
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.
Methods
A modified registry form of Remudy (http://www.remudy.jp/) 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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0220-7
PMCID: PMC4323212  PMID: 25612904
Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy; The CHFU database; Patient management
7.  Deflazacort for the treatment of Duchenne Dystrophy: A systematic review 
BMC Neurology  2003;3:7.
Background
To complete a systematic review and meta-analysis based on the clinical question: Is Deflazacort (DFZ), a prednisolone derivative, an effective therapy for improving strength, with acceptable side effects, in children with Duchenne Dystrophy (DD)?
Methods
MEDLINE, EMBASE, Current Contents, Dissertation Abstracts, Health Star, PsychINFO and Cochrane, were searched using the following inclusion criteria: 1) A randomized controlled trial comparing DFZ with placebo or another therapy; 2) Male participants age 2–18 years with DD; 3) Outcomes of (a) any form of strength or functional testing, or (b) any form of side effect.
Results
Fifteen studies of potential relevance were identified, with five meeting the inclusion criteria. These five studies included 291 children and were published in English language journals between 1994 and 2000. Two studies compared DFZ versus placebo, two studies compared DFZ with prednisone and one study had both placebo and prednisone comparisions. Two large trials were identified that have not been published in article format. Due to the heterogeneity in outcome measures and the inconsistent reporting of summary statistics a meta-analytic approach could not be taken.
Conclusions
Examining individual studies it appears that DFZ improves strength and functional outcomes compared to placebo, but it remains unclear if it has a benefit over prednisone on similar outcomes. Two trials found that DFZ causes less weight gain than prednisone.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-3-7
PMCID: PMC222985  PMID: 12962544
8.  The Canadian experience with long term deflazacort treatment in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(1):16-20.
Deflazacort is the most commonly prescribed corticosteroid for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy in Canada. We review the long term experience with deflazacort treatment at two centers in Canada; Montreal and Toronto. Deflazacort has benefitted both cohorts by prolonged ambulation, preserved cardiac and respiratory function, less scoliosis and improved survival. Common side effects in both cohorts include weight gain, decreased height and cataract formation. The Canadian experience supports the use of deflazacort in treating boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3440807  PMID: 22655512
Deflazacort; Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; Canada
9.  Physical training in boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: the protocol of the No Use is Disuse study 
BMC Pediatrics  2010;10:55.
Background
"Use it or lose it" is a well known saying which is applicable to boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Besides the direct effects of the muscular dystrophy, the increasing effort to perform activities, the fear of falling and the use of personal aids indirectly impair leg and arm functions as a result of disuse. Physical training could oppose this secondary physical deterioration. The No Use is Disuse (NUD) study is the first study in human subjects with DMD that will examine whether a low-intensity physical training is beneficial in terms of preservation of muscle endurance and functional abilities. The study consists of two training intervention studies: study 1 "Dynamic leg and arm training for ambulant and recently wheelchair-dependent boys with DMD and, study 2 "Functional training with arm support for boys with DMD who have been confined to a wheelchair for several years". This paper describes the hypotheses and methods of the NUD study.
Methods
Study 1 is an explorative randomized controlled trial with multiple baseline measurements. Thirty boys with a DNA-established diagnosis of DMD will be included. The intervention consists of a six-months physical training during which boys train their legs and arms with active and/or assisted cycling training equipment. The primary study outcomes are muscle endurance and functional abilities, assessed with a Six-Minute Bicycle Test and the Motor Function Measure. Study 2 has a within-group repeated measurements design and will include ten boys with DMD who have already been confined to a wheelchair for several years. The six-months physical training program consists of 1) a computer-assisted training and 2) a functional training with an arm support. The primary study outcome is functional abilities of the upper extremity, assessed with the Action Research Arm Test.
Discussion
The NUD study will fill part of the gap in the current knowledge about the possible effects of training in boys with DMD and will increase insight into what type of exercise should be recommended to boys with DMD. The study will finish at the end of 2010 and results are expected in 2011.
Trial registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register1631
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-10-55
PMCID: PMC2929216  PMID: 20691042
10.  Participation and quality of life in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health 
Background
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by muscle damage and progressive loss of muscle function in male children. DMD is one of the most devastating genetically linked neuromuscular diseases for which there is currently no cure. Most clinical studies for DMD utilize a standard protocol for measurement exploring pathophysiology, muscle strength and timed tasks. However, we propose that examining broader components of health as emphasized by the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health-Children and Youth Version (ICF-CY) may be of great value to children and their families, and important outcomes for future clinical trials.
Methods
Fifty boys with DMD and 25 unaffected age-matched boys completed two self-report measures: the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment and the Pediatric Quality of Life InventoryTM 4.0. We investigated differences between the two groups with regard to participation in life activities and perceived quality of life (QoL). Additionally, we compared participation in activities and QoL in both cohorts of younger and older boys.
Results
Participation in physical activities was significantly lower in boys with DMD than unaffected boys. Perceived QoL was markedly diminished in children with DMD relative to unaffected controls, except in the emotional domain. The amount of time boys engage in an activity, as well as participation in social activities, declined for our older boys with DMD but no changes were observed for our older unaffected boys. For both groups, QoL remained constant over time.
Conclusions
The ICF-CY provides a conceptual framework and specific terminology that facilitates investigation of the consequences of impairment in children and youth. Our study is one of the first to explore participation in a cohort of boys with DMD. It was not surprising that activities of choice for boys with DMD were less physical in nature than unaffected boys their age, but the consequences of less social engagement as the boys with DMD age is of great concern. Results from our study underscore the need to further evaluate activities that children elect to participate in, with special emphasis on facilitators and barriers to participation and how participation changes throughout the course of a disease.
doi:10.1186/1477-7525-10-43
PMCID: PMC3358238  PMID: 22545870
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; ICF; Participation; Quality of life
11.  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.
Background
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).
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000085.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000083
PMCID: PMC2680620  PMID: 19478831
12.  CINRG Pilot trial of Coenzyme Q10 in steroid treated Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Muscle & nerve  2011;44(2):174-178.
Introduction
Corticosteroid treatment slows disease progression and is the standard of care for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a potent antioxidant that may improve function in dystrophin deficient muscle.
Methods
We performed an open label, “add-on” pilot study of CoQ10 in thirteen 5–10 year old DMD patients on steroids. The primary outcome measure was the total Quantitative Muscle Testing (QMT) score.
Results
Twelve of 16 children (mean age 8.03±1.64 years) completed the trial. Target serum levels of CoQ10 (≥2.5 μg/ml) were shown to be subject- and administration-dependent. Nine of 12 subjects showed an increase in total QMT score. Overall, CoQ10 treatment resulted in 8.5 % increase in muscle strength (p=0.03).
Discussion
This pilot study found the addition of CoQ10 to prednisone therapy in DMD patients resulted in an increase in muscle strength. These results warrant a larger, controlled trial of CoQ10 in DMD.
doi:10.1002/mus.22047
PMCID: PMC3136634  PMID: 21698649
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; CoQ10; steroids; muscle strength testing; clinical trial
13.  The Proton Pump Inhibitor Lansoprazole Improves the Skeletal Phenotype in Dystrophin Deficient mdx Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e66617.
Background
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), loss of the membrane stabilizing protein dystrophin results in myofiber damage. Microinjury to dystrophic myofibers also causes secondary imbalances in sarcolemmic ion permeability and resting membrane potential, which modifies excitation-contraction coupling and increases proinflammatory/apoptotic signaling cascades. Although glucocorticoids remain the standard of care for the treatment of DMD, there is a need to investigate the efficacy of other pharmacological agents targeting the involvement of imbalances in ion flux on dystrophic pathology.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We designed a preclinical trial to investigate the effects of lansoprazole (LANZO) administration, a proton pump inhibitor, on the dystrophic muscle phenotype in dystrophin deficient (mdx) mice. Eight to ten week-old female mice were assigned to one of four treatment groups (n = 12 per group): (1) vehicle control; (2) 5 mg/kg/day LANZO; (3) 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone; and (4) combined treatment of 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone (PRED) and 5 mg/kg/day LANZO. Treatment was administered orally 5 d/wk for 3 months. At the end of the study, behavioral (Digiscan) and functional outcomes (grip strength and Rotarod) were assessed prior to sacrifice. After sacrifice, body, tissue and organ masses, muscle histology, in vitro muscle force, and creatine kinase levels were measured. Mice in the combined treatment groups displayed significant reductions in the number of degenerating muscle fibers and number of inflammatory foci per muscle field relative to vehicle control. Additionally, mice in the combined treatment group displayed less of a decline in normalized forelimb and hindlimb grip strength and declines in in vitro EDL force after repeated eccentric contractions.
Conclusions/Significance
Together our findings suggest that combined treatment of LANZO and prednisolone attenuates some components of dystrophic pathology in mdx mice. Our findings warrant future investigation of the clinical efficacy of LANZO and prednisolone combined treatment regimens in dystrophic pathology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066617
PMCID: PMC3699610  PMID: 23843959
14.  A Randomized, Double-Blind Trial of Lisinopril and Losartan for the Treatment of Cardiomyopathy in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS Currents  2013;5:ecurrents.md.2cc69a1dae4be7dfe2bcb420024ea865.
Objectives: This study sought to compare the effectiveness and safety of an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-I) (lisinopril) vs. an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) (losartan) for the treatment of cardiomyopathy (CM) in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Background: Development of CM is universal in boys with DMD. ACE-I and ARB have both been suggested as effective treatment options. ARBs have been associated with skeletal muscle regeneration in a mouse model of DMD. The question of which, if either, is more effective for CM treatment in DMD remains. The purpose of this multicenter double-blind prospective study was to compare efficacy and safety of lisinopril versus losartan in the treatment of newly diagnosed CM in boys with DMD. Methods: Echocardiographic technician inter- and intraobserver variability were tested on 2 separate days on 2 different boys with DMD CM. Results were compared with paired t-testing. Twenty-two boys with newly diagnosed DMD CM (echocardiographic ejection fraction (EF) 10% EF drop. Three boys in the aCE-I group had 3 visits, due to study funding termination. Two were withdrawn because of low EF. All their data are included in the analysis for as long as they remained in the study. Mean EF’s were similar at baseline (47.5%- ACE-I, 48.4%- ARB). After 1 year each group significantly improved to 54.6% and 55.2% respectively (p=.02). There was no difference between the 2 treatment groups at 1 year. Conclusions: Inter-observer and intra-observer reliability studies showed no differences between echocardiographers on serial examinations. EF improved equally in the two groups. There is no therapeutic difference in EF improvement between lisinopril and losartan over the one-year duration for treatment of boys with DMD-related CM. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01982695
doi:10.1371/currents.md.2cc69a1dae4be7dfe2bcb420024ea865
PMCID: PMC3871420  PMID: 24459612
15.  THE COOPERATIVE INTERNATIONAL NEUROMUSCULAR RESEARCH GROUP DUCHENNE NATURAL HISTORY STUDY—A LONGITUDINAL INVESTIGATION IN THE ERA OF GLUCOCORTICOID THERAPY: DESIGN OF PROTOCOL AND THE METHODS USED 
Muscle & nerve  2013;48(1):32-54.
Contemporary natural history data in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is needed to assess care recommendations and aid in planning future trials.
Methods
The Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group (CINRG) DMD Natural History Study (DMD-NHS) enrolled 340 individuals, aged 2–28 years, with DMD in a longitudinal, observational study at 20 centers. Assessments obtained every 3 months for 1 year, at 18 months, and annually thereafter included: clinical history; anthropometrics; goniometry; manual muscle testing; quantitative muscle strength; timed function tests; pulmonary function; and patient-reported outcomes/ health-related quality-of-life instruments.
Results
Glucocorticoid (GC) use at baseline was 62% present, 14% past, and 24% GC-naive. In those ≥6 years of age, 16% lost ambulation over the first 12 months (mean age 10.8 years).
Conclusions
Detailed information on the study methodology of the CINRG DMD-NHS lays the groundwork for future analyses of prospective longitudinal natural history data. These data will assist investigators in designing clinical trials of novel therapeutics.
doi:10.1002/mus.23807
PMCID: PMC4147958  PMID: 23677550
adolescent; adult; child/preschool; follow-up study; health status; human; locomotion; male; muscle strength/physiology; muscular dystrophies/classification; muscular dystrophies/Duchenne/physiopathology; muscular dystrophies/therapy; phenotype; quality of life/psychology; respiratory function test
16.  Gene Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy: Lessons Learned and Path Forward 
Neuroscience letters  2012;527(2):90-99.
Our Translational Gene Therapy Center has used small molecules for exon skipping and mutation suppression and gene transfer to replace or provide surrogate genes as tools for molecular-based approaches for the treatment of muscular dystrophies. Exon skipping is targeted at the pre-mRNA level allowing one or more exons to be omitted to restore the reading frame. In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), clinical trials have been performed with two different oligomers, a 2′O-methyl-ribo-oligonucleoside-phosphorothioate (2′OMe) and a phosphorodiamidate morpholino (PMO). Both have demonstrated early evidence of efficacy. A second molecular approach involves suppression of stop codons to promote readthrough of the DMD gene. We have been able to establish proof of principle for mutation suppression using the aminoglycoside, gentamicin. A safer, orally administered, alternative agent referred to as Ataluren (PTC124) has been used in clinical trials and is currently under consideration for approval by the FDA.
Using a gene therapy approach, we have completed two trials and have initiated a third. For DMD, we used a mini-dystrophin transferred in adeno-associated virus (AAV). In this trial an immune response was seen directed against transgene product, a quite unexpected outcome that will help guide further studies. For limb girdle muscular dystrophy 2D (alpha-sarcoglycan deficiency), the transgene was again transferred using AAV but in this study, a muscle specific creatine kinase promoter controlled gene expression that persisted for six months. A third gene therapy trial has been initiated with transfer of the follistatin gene in AAV directly to the quadriceps muscle. Two diseases with selective quadriceps muscle weakness are undergoing gene transfer including sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM) and Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). Increasing the size and strength of the muscle is the goal of this study. Most importantly, no adverse events have been encountered in any of these clinical trials.
doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.04.078
PMCID: PMC3492936  PMID: 22609847
exon skipping; mutation suppression; dystrophin; alpha-sarcoglycan; follistatin; adeno-associated virus
17.  Prednisolone improves walking in Japanese Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients 
Journal of Neurology  2013;260(12):3023-3029.
We evaluated the long-term efficacy of prednisolone (PSL) therapy for prolonging ambulation in Japanese patients with genetically confirmed Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). There were clinical trials have shown a short-term positive effect of high-dose and daily PSL on ambulation, whereas a few study showed a long-term effect. Especially in Japan, “real-life” observation was lacking. We utilized the national registry of muscular dystrophy in Japan for our retrospective study. We compared the age at loss of ambulation (LOA) between patients in PSL group and those in without-PSL group. Out of 791 patients’ in the Remudy DMD/BMD registry from July 2009 to June 2012, 560 were matched with inclusion criteria. Of the 560, all were genetically confirmed DMD patients, 245 (43.8 %) of whom were treated with PSL and 315 (56.2 %) without PSL. There was no difference between the two groups regarding their mutational profile. The age at LOA was significantly greater (11 month on average) in the PSL group than in the without-PSL group (median, 132 vs. 121 months; p = 0.0002). Although strictly controlled clinical trials have shown that corticosteroid therapies achieved a marked improvement in ambulation, discontinuation of the drug due to intolerable side effects led to exclusion of clinical trial participants, which is considered as unavoidable. In our study, patients were not excluded from the PSL group, even if they discontinued the medication shortly after starting it. The results of our study may provide evidence to formulate recommendations and provide a basis for realistic expectations for PSL treatment of DMD patients in Japan, even there are certain limitations due to the retrospectively captured data in the registry.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7104-y
PMCID: PMC3843366  PMID: 24057148
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Prednisolone; Walking; National registry; Natural history
18.  Emerging Drugs for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Expert opinion on emerging drugs  2012;17(2):261-277.
Introduction
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common, severe childhood form of muscular dystrophy. Treatment is limited to glucocorticoids that have the benefit of prolonging ambulation by approximately 2 years and preventing scoliosis. Finding a more satisfactory treatment should focus on maintaining long-term efficacy with a minimal side effect profile.
Areas covered
Authors discuss different therapeutic strategies that have been used in pre-clinical and clinical settings.
Expert opinion
Multiple treatment approaches have emerged. Most attractive are molecular-based therapies that can express the missing dystrophin protein (exon skipping or mutation suppression) or a surrogate gene product (utrophin). Other approaches include increasing the strength of muscles (myostatin inhibitors), reducing muscle fibrosis, and decreasing oxidative stress. Additional targets include inhibiting NF-κB to reduce inflammation, or promoting skeletal muscle blood flow and muscle contractility using phosphodiesterase inhibitors or nitric oxide (NO) donors. The potential for each of these treatment strategies to enter clinical trials is a central theme of discussion. The review emphasizes that the goal of treatment should be to find a product at least as good as glucocorticoids with a lower side effect profile or with a significant glucocorticoid sparing effect.
doi:10.1517/14728214.2012.691965
PMCID: PMC3486431  PMID: 22632414
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; exon skipping; mutation suppression; stop codon readthrough; utrophin; myostatin inhibition; nitric oxide; phosphodiesterase inhibitors; NF-κB inhibition
19.  Effects of steroids and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibition on circumferential strain in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a cross-sectional and longitudinal study utilizing cardiovascular magnetic resonance 
Background
Steroid use has prolonged ambulation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and combined with advances in respiratory care overall management has improved such that cardiac manifestations have become the major cause of death. Unfortunately, there is no consensus for DMD-associated cardiac disease management. Our purpose was to assess effects of steroid use alone or in combination with angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) or angiotension receptor blocker (ARB) on cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) derived circumferential strain (εcc).
Methods
We used CMR to assess effects of corticosteroids alone (Group A) or in combination with ACEI or ARB (Group B) on heart rate (HR), left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), mass (LVM), end diastolic volume (LVEDV) and circumferential strain (εcc) in a cohort of 171 DMD patients >5 years of age. Treatment decisions were made independently by physicians at both our institution and referral centers and not based on CMR results.
Results
Patients in Group A (114 studies) were younger than those in Group B (92 studies)(10 ± 2.4 vs. 12.4 ± 3.2 years, p < 0.0001), but HR, LVEF, LVEDV and LVM were not different. Although εcc magnitude was lower in Group B than Group A (-13.8 ± 1.9 vs. -12.8 ± 2.0, p = 0.0004), age correction using covariance analysis eliminated this effect. In a subset of patients who underwent serial CMR exams with an inter-study time of ~15 months, εcc worsened regardless of treatment group.
Conclusions
These results support the need for prospective clinical trials to identify more effective treatment regimens for DMD associated cardiac disease.
doi:10.1186/1532-429X-13-60
PMCID: PMC3207955  PMID: 22011358
20.  Clinical Heterogeneity of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD): Definition of Sub-Phenotypes and Predictive Criteria by Long-Term Follow-Up 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4347.
Background
To explore clinical heterogeneity of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), viewed as a major obstacle to the interpretation of therapeutic trials
Methodology/Principal Findings
A retrospective single institution long-term follow-up study was carried out in DMD patients with both complete lack of muscle dystrophin and genotyping. An exploratory series (series 1) was used to assess phenotypic heterogeneity and to identify early criteria predicting future outcome; it included 75 consecutive steroid-free patients, longitudinally evaluated for motor, respiratory, cardiac and cognitive functions (median follow-up: 10.5 yrs). A validation series (series 2) was used to test robustness of the selected predictive criteria; it included 34 more routinely evaluated patients (age>12 yrs). Multivariate analysis of series 1 classified 70/75 patients into 4 clusters with distinctive intellectual and motor outcomes: A (early infantile DMD, 20%): severe intellectual and motor outcomes; B (classical DMD, 28%): intermediate intellectual and poor motor outcome; C (moderate pure motor DMD, 22%): normal intelligence and delayed motor impairment; and D (severe pure motor DMD, 30%): normal intelligence and poor motor outcome. Group A patients had the most severe respiratory and cardiac involvement. Frequency of mutations upstream to exon 30 increased from group A to D, but genotype/phenotype correlations were restricted to cognition (IQ>71: OR 7.7, 95%CI 1.6–20.4, p<0.003). Diagnostic accuracy tests showed that combination of “clinical onset <2 yrs” with “mental retardation” reliably assigned patients to group A (sensitivity 0.93, specificity 0.98). Combination of “lower limb MMT score>6 at 8 yrs” with “normal or borderline mental status” reliably assigned patients to group C (sensitivity: 1, specificity: 0.94). These criteria were also predictive of “early infantile DMD” and “moderate pure motor DMD” in series 2.
Conclusions/Significance
DMD can be divided into 4 sub-phenotypes differing by severity of muscle and brain dysfunction. Simple early criteria can be used to include patients with similar outcomes in future therapeutic trials.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004347
PMCID: PMC2633042  PMID: 19194511
21.  Participation in daily life activities and its relationship to strength and functional measures in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Disability and rehabilitation  2014;36(22):1918-1923.
Purpose
While most studies of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have focused on physical impairment, there is a need to explore how impairment impacts real life experiences in order to provide intervention strategies focused on participation. Objectives were: 1) to investigate the domains of participation in a sample of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy; 2) to compare a younger (<10 years) and older (≥10 years) group of boys with DMD with regard to participation; 3) to investigate strength and timed functional tests in a sample of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy; 4) to compare a younger (<10 years) and older (≥10 years) group of boys with DMD with regard to strength and timed functional tests; and 5) to explore associations between participation and strength and timed functional tests for our DMD cohorts.
Methods
This cross-sectional study included sixty boys with DMD (mean 9.3 years ±0.3). Boys completed strength testing, timed functional tests, the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment and the ACTIVLIM. Independent samples t-tests were used to test for differences in all measures between our younger and older cohorts; Spearman’s (rank) correlation was used to assess relationships between participation and strength and time functional tests.
Results
Significant differences were found between our younger and older boys with DMD in the areas of recreational (p≤0.01), social (p≤0.001), and skill-based activities (p≤0.05), as well as with whom and where the activities were performed (p≤0.05 and 0.001, respectively). Older boys with DMD report lower levels of participation in these areas, as well as less engagement in activities with individuals other than family members and less participation outside of the home. Lower levels of strength and slower rates of functional performance correlate with participation in fewer physical activities for our younger cohort and fewer physical and social activities for our older cohort.
Conclusions
Strength and function relate to the variability and type of activities in which boys with DMD participate. A key finding is the significant decline in social activities and community-based engagement as the boys with DMD age. The ultimate goal of an intervention is for our children to be as actively engaged in life as they desire. This requires addressing participation when measuring outcomes in order to more fully understand limitations and provide appropriate strategies for continued participation for boys and their families.
doi:10.3109/09638288.2014.883444
PMCID: PMC4125555  PMID: 24499260
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; participation; strength outcomes; functional outcomes; social engagement
22.  VBP15, a novel anti-inflammatory and membrane-stabilizer, improves muscular dystrophy without side effects 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(10):1569-1585.
Absence of dystrophin makes skeletal muscle more susceptible to injury, resulting in breaches of the plasma membrane and chronic inflammation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Current management by glucocorticoids has unclear molecular benefits and harsh side effects. It is uncertain whether therapies that avoid hormonal stunting of growth and development, and/or immunosuppression, would be more or less beneficial. Here, we discover an oral drug with mechanisms that provide efficacy through anti-inflammatory signaling and membrane-stabilizing pathways, independent of hormonal or immunosuppressive effects. We find VBP15 protects and promotes efficient repair of skeletal muscle cells upon laser injury, in opposition to prednisolone. Potent inhibition of NF-κB is mediated through protein interactions of the glucocorticoid receptor, however VBP15 shows significantly reduced hormonal receptor transcriptional activity. The translation of these drug mechanisms into DMD model mice improves muscle strength, live-imaging and pathology through both preventive and post-onset intervention regimens. These data demonstrate successful improvement of dystrophy independent of hormonal, growth, or immunosuppressive effects, indicating VBP15 merits clinical investigation for DMD and would benefit other chronic inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201302621
PMCID: PMC3799580  PMID: 24014378
anti-inflammatory; dystrophy; mdx; membrane injury; muscle
23.  Pentoxifylline as a rescue treatment for DMD 
Neurology  2012;78(12):904-913.
Objective:
To determine whether pentoxifylline (PTX) slows the decline of muscle strength and function in ambulatory boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Methods:
This was a multicenter, randomized, double-blinded, controlled trial comparing 12 months of daily treatment with PTX or placebo in corticosteroid-treated boys with DMD using a slow-release PTX formulation (∼20 mg/kg/day). The primary outcome was the change in mean total quantitative muscle testing (QMT) score. Secondary outcomes included changes in QMT subscales, manual muscle strength, pulmonary function, and timed function tests. Outcomes were compared using Student t tests and a linear mixed-effects model. Adverse events (AEs) were compared using the Fisher exact test.
Results:
A total of 64 boys with DMD with a mean age of 9.9 ± 2.9 years were randomly assigned to PTX or placebo in 11 participating Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group centers. There was no significant difference between PTX and the placebo group in total QMT scores (p = 0.14) or in most of the secondary outcomes after a 12-month treatment. The use of PTX was associated with mild to moderate gastrointestinal or hematologic AEs.
Conclusion:
The addition of PTX to corticosteroid-treated boys with DMD at a moderate to late ambulatory stage of disease did not improve or halt the deterioration of muscle strength and function over a 12-month study period.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class I evidence that treatment with PTX does not prevent deterioration in muscle function or strength in corticosteroid-treated boys with DMD.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31824c46be
PMCID: PMC3306159  PMID: 22402864
24.  THE COOPERATIVE INTERNATIONAL NEUROMUSCULAR RESEARCH GROUP DUCHENNE NATURAL HISTORY STUDY: GLUCOCORTICOID TREATMENT PRESERVES CLINICALLY MEANINGFUL FUNCTIONAL MILESTONES AND REDUCES RATE OF DISEASE PROGRESSION AS MEASURED BY MANUAL MUSCLE TESTING AND OTHER COMMONLY USED CLINICAL TRIAL OUTCOME MEASURES 
Muscle & nerve  2013;48(1):55-67.
Introduction
Glucocorticoid (GC) therapy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has altered disease progression, necessitating contemporary natural history studies.
Methods
The Cooperative Neuromuscular Research Group (CINRG) DMD Natural History Study (DMD-NHS) enrolled 340 DMD males, ages 2–28 years. A comprehensive battery of measures was obtained.
Results
A novel composite functional “milestone” scale scale showed clinically meaningful mobility and upper limb abilities were significantly preserved in GC-treated adolescents/young adults. Manual muscle test (MMT)-based calculations of global strength showed that those patients <10 years of age treated with steroids declined by 0.4±0.39 MMT unit/year, compared with −0.4±0.39 MMT unit/year in historical steroid-naive subjects. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) were relatively preserved in steroid-treated adolescents. The linearity and magnitude of decline in measures were affected by maturational changes and functional status.
Conclusions
In DMD, long-term use of GCs showed reduced strength loss and preserved functional capabilities and PFTs compared with previous natural history studies performed prior to the widespread use of GC therapy.
doi:10.1002/mus.23808
PMCID: PMC4103170  PMID: 23649481
adolescent; adult; child/preschool; follow-up studies; health status; humans; locomotion; male; muscular dystrophies/classification; muscular dystrophies/Duchenne/physiopathology; muscular dystrophies/therapy; muscle strength/physiology; phenotype; quality of life/psychology; respiratory function tests
25.  Andrographolide attenuates skeletal muscle dystrophy in mdx mice and increases efficiency of cell therapy by reducing fibrosis 
Skeletal Muscle  2014;4:6.
Background
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by the absence of the cytoskeletal protein dystrophin, muscle wasting, increased transforming growth factor type beta (TGF-β) signaling, and fibrosis. At the present time, the only clinically validated treatments for DMD are glucocorticoids. These drugs prolong muscle strength and ambulation of patients for a short term only and have severe adverse effects. Andrographolide, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone, has traditionally been used for the treatment of colds, fever, laryngitis, and other infections with no or minimal side effects. We determined whether andrographolide treatment of mdx mice, an animal model for DMD, affects muscle damage, physiology, fibrosis, and efficiency of cell therapy.
Methods
mdx mice were treated with andrographolide for three months and skeletal muscle histology, creatine kinase activity, and permeability of muscle fibers were evaluated. Fibrosis and TGF-β signaling were evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence and Western blot analyses. Muscle strength was determined in isolated skeletal muscles and by a running test. Efficiency of cell therapy was determined by grafting isolated skeletal muscle satellite cells onto the tibialis anterior of mdx mice.
Results
mdx mice treated with andrographolide exhibited less severe muscular dystrophy than untreated dystrophic mice. They performed better in an exercise endurance test and had improved muscle strength in isolated muscles, reduced skeletal muscle impairment, diminished fibrosis and a significant reduction in TGF-β signaling. Moreover, andrographolide treatment of mdx mice improved grafting efficiency upon intramuscular injection of dystrophin-positive satellite cells.
Conclusions
These results suggest that andrographolide could be used to improve quality of life in individuals with DMD.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-4-6
PMCID: PMC4021597  PMID: 24655808
Andrographolide; mdx; DMD; Fibrosis; Skeletal muscle; Cell therapy

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