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1.  Functional Substitution by TAT-Utrophin in Dystrophin-Deficient Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000083.
James Ervasti and colleagues show that injection of a truncated form of utrophin transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, and reduced serum levels of creatine kinase in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy.
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
2.  THE SYNTHESIS, STORAGE, AND EXCRETION OF CREATINE, CREATININE, AND GLYCOCYAMINE IN PROGRESSIVE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY AND THE EFFECTS OF CERTAIN HORMONES ON THESE PROCESSES 
The diminished excretion of creatinine in progressive muscular dystrophy is a more striking and specific phenomenon than the excess excretion of creatine, marked though this is. While creatinuria is invariably encountered in all cases of long-standing dystrophy, the extent to which the excretion of creatinine is decreased provides a more reliable indication of the severity of the disease since an excess output of creatine may occur physiologically in normal human subjects and in many pathological conditions not known to be associated with muscle disease. In progressive muscular dystrophy the residual muscle mass, as inferred from the excretion of creatinine, provides a useful index of the state of the disease at any given time. Although there is excessive creatinuria in progressive muscular dystrophy, there is no evidence that a deprivation of methyl stores occurs through a loss of urinary creatine. The loss of methyl groups contained in the excess creatine is, under ordinary conditions of diet, almost exactly compensated for by a drop in the excretion of methyl groups in the urinary creatinine. Testosterone propionate, administered over variable periods of time, resulted in the retention of creatine both in normal male children and in male children with progressive muscular dystrophy, as shown in the normal subjects by a diminution in creatine output, and in both by an excess creatinuria for variable periods of time following withdrawal of the hormone. An increase in the excretion of creatine in progressive muscular dystrophy occurred following the administration of methyl testosterone. Neither testosterone propionate nor methyl testosterone appeared to effect any consistent change in the output or urinary creatinine. No effects on the excretion of creatine and creatinine were observed following the prolonged administration of concentrate of gonadotropic and thyrotropic principles of the hypophysis, or from the administration of desoxycorticosterone acetate to patients with progressive muscular dystrophy. Except in one case, in which marked improvement was observed following the administration of testosterone propionate, no effects on the clinical course of the patients with progressive muscular dystrophy were observed as a result of treatment by any of the various hormones employed in this study.
PMCID: PMC2135508  PMID: 19871467
3.  Diagnosis and cell-based therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in humans, mice, and zebrafish 
Journal of human genetics  2006;51(5):397-406.
The muscular dystrophies are a heterogeneous group of genetically caused muscle degenerative disorders. The Kunkel laboratory has had a longstanding research program into the pathogenesis and treatment of these diseases. Starting with our identification of dystrophin as the defective protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), we have continued our work on normal dystrophin function and how it is altered in muscular dystrophy. Our work has led to the identification of the defective genes in three forms of limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) and a better understanding of how muscle degenerates in many of the different dystrophies. The identification of mutations causing human forms of dystrophy has lead to improved diagnosis for patients with the disease. We are continuing to improve the molecular diagnosis of the dystrophies and have developed a high-throughput sequencing approach for the low-cost rapid diagnosis of all known forms of dystrophy. In addition, we are continuing to work on therapies using available animal models. Currently, there are a number of mouse models of the human dystrophies, the most notable being the mdx mouse with dystrophin deficiency. These mice are being used to test possible therapies, including stem-cell-based approaches. We have been able to systemically deliver human dystrophin to these mice via the arterial circulation and convert 8% of dystrophin-deficient fibers to fibers expressing human dystrophin. We are now expanding our research to identify new forms of LGMD by analyzing zebrafish models of muscular dystrophy. Currently, we have 14 different zebrafish mutants exhibiting various phenotypes of muscular dystrophy, including muscle weakness and inactivity. One of these mutants carries a stop codon mutation in dystrophin, and we have recently identified another carrying a mutation in titin. We are currently positionally cloning the disease-causative mutation in the remaining 12 mutant strains. We hope that one of these new mutant strains of fish will have a mutation in a gene not previously implicated in human muscular dystrophy. This gene would become a candidate gene to be analyzed in patients which do not carry a mutation in any of the known dystrophy-associated genes. By studying both disease pathology and investigating potential therapies, we hope to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1007/s10038-006-0374-9
PMCID: PMC3518425  PMID: 16583129
DNA sequencing; Muscle; Muscular dystrophy; Stem cells; Zebrafish
4.  Dystrophin quantification and clinical correlations in Becker muscular dystrophy: implications for clinical trials 
Brain  2011;134(12):3544-3556.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the DMD gene that disrupt the open reading frame and prevent the full translation of its protein product, dystrophin. Restoration of the open reading frame and dystrophin production can be achieved by exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides targeted to splicing elements. This approach aims to transform the Duchenne muscular dystrophy phenotype to that of the milder disorder, Becker muscular dystrophy, typically caused by in-frame dystrophin deletions that allow the production of an internally deleted but partially functional dystrophin. There is ongoing debate regarding the functional properties of the different internally deleted dystrophins produced by exon skipping for different mutations; more insight would be valuable to improve and better predict the outcome of exon skipping clinical trials. To this end, we have characterized the clinical phenotype of 17 patients with Becker muscular dystrophy harbouring in-frame deletions relevant to on-going or planned exon skipping clinical trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and correlated it to the levels of dystrophin, and dystrophin-associated protein expression. The cohort of 17 patients, selected exclusively on the basis of their genotype, included 4 asymptomatic, 12 mild and 1 severe patient. All patients had dystrophin levels of >40% of control and significantly higher dystrophin (P = 0.013), β-dystroglycan (P = 0.025) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (P = 0.034) expression was observed in asymptomatic individuals versus symptomatic patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, grouping the patients by deletion, patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions with an end-point of exon 51 (the skipping of which could rescue the largest group of Duchenne muscular dystrophy deletions) showed significantly higher dystrophin levels (P = 0.034) than those with deletions ending with exon 53. This is the first quantitative study on both dystrophin and dystrophin-associated protein expression in patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions relevant for on-going exon skipping trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Taken together, our results indicate that all varieties of internally deleted dystrophin assessed in this study have the functional capability to provide a substantial clinical benefit to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr291
PMCID: PMC3235564  PMID: 22102647
Becker muscular dystrophy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; nNOS; dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex; therapy
5.  Leaky ryanodine receptors in β-sarcoglycan deficient mice: a potential common defect in muscular dystrophy 
Skeletal Muscle  2012;2:9.
Background
Disruption of the sarcolemma-associated dystrophin-glycoprotein complex underlies multiple forms of muscular dystrophy, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy and sarcoglycanopathies. A hallmark of these disorders is muscle weakness. In a murine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mdx mice, cysteine-nitrosylation of the calcium release channel/ryanodine receptor type 1 (RyR1) on the skeletal muscle sarcoplasmic reticulum causes depletion of the stabilizing subunit calstabin1 (FKBP12) from the RyR1 macromolecular complex. This results in a sarcoplasmic reticular calcium leak via defective RyR1 channels. This pathological intracellular calcium leak contributes to reduced calcium release and decreased muscle force production. It is unknown whether RyR1 dysfunction occurs also in other muscular dystrophies.
Methods
To test this we used a murine model of Limb-Girdle muscular dystrophy, deficient in β-sarcoglycan (Sgcb−/−).
Results
Skeletal muscle RyR1 from Sgcb−/− deficient mice were oxidized, nitrosylated, and depleted of the stabilizing subunit calstabin1, which was associated with increased open probability of the RyR1 channels. Sgcb−/− deficient mice exhibited decreased muscle specific force and calcium transients, and displayed reduced exercise capacity. Treating Sgcb−/− mice with the RyR stabilizing compound S107 improved muscle specific force, calcium transients, and exercise capacity. We have previously reported similar findings in mdx mice, a murine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that leaky RyR1 channels may underlie multiple forms of muscular dystrophy linked to mutations in genes encoding components of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex. A common underlying abnormality in calcium handling indicates that pharmacological targeting of dysfunctional RyR1 could be a novel therapeutic approach to improve muscle function in Limb-Girdle and Duchenne muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-2-9
PMCID: PMC3605002  PMID: 22640601
Muscular dystrophy; Ryanodine receptor; Calstabin1; Calcium
6.  Treatment of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy with Denosumab 
Summary
Background:
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is the 3rd most common form of muscular dystrophy. Effective treatments for any of the muscular dystrophies have yet to be realized. This report describes such a treatment.
Case Report:
A 66 year old female was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She had been diagnosed with FSHD muscular dystrophy a number of years previously by both genetic and clinical studies. Following a 2 year course with Forteo for osteoporosis, she was given an injection of Denosumab (Prolia) to maintain her bone density. By 24 hours, she exhibited increased strength and a dramatic reduction of her dystrophic symptoms e.g. she could walk unassisted in high heels. She was able to accomplish other things that had not been possible for a number of years. After approximately 5 weeks she gradually lost the newfound strength with a complete loss by about 6 weeks. A second injection of Denosumab resulted in the same effect, i.e. reversal of symptoms and increased functionality. A number of measurements and videos were taken to establish the beneficial effects of Prolia for future studies. This was repeated with a 3rd and 4th injection in order to establish the unequivocal beneficial effects on muscular dystrophy.
Conclusions:
Further studies will be required to establish Denosumab as a major “front line” treatment for this disease and possibly other muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.12659/AJCR.882771
PMCID: PMC3615920  PMID: 23569491
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; FSHD; Denosumab
7.  Natural history of pulmonary function in collagen VI-related myopathies 
Brain  2013;136(12):3625-3633.
The spectrum of clinical phenotypes associated with a deficiency or dysfunction of collagen VI in the extracellular matrix of muscle are collectively termed ‘collagen VI-related myopathies’ and include Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, Bethlem myopathy and intermediate phenotypes. To further define the clinical course of these variants, we studied the natural history of pulmonary function in correlation to motor abilities in the collagen VI-related myopathies by analysing longitudinal forced vital capacity data in a large international cohort. Retrospective chart reviews of genetically and/or pathologically confirmed collagen VI-related myopathy patients were performed at 10 neuromuscular centres: USA (n = 2), UK (n = 2), Australia (n = 2), Italy (n = 2), France (n = 1) and Belgium (n = 1). A total of 486 forced vital capacity measurements obtained in 145 patients were available for analysis. Patients at the severe end of the clinical spectrum, conforming to the original description of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy were easily identified by severe muscle weakness either preventing ambulation or resulting in an early loss of ambulation, and demonstrated a cumulative decline in forced vital capacity of 2.6% per year (P < 0.0001). Patients with better functional abilities, in whom walking with/without assistance was achieved, were initially combined, containing both intermediate and Bethlem myopathy phenotypes in one group. However, one subset of patients demonstrated a continuous decline in pulmonary function whereas the other had stable pulmonary function. None of the patients with declining pulmonary function attained the ability to hop or run; these patients were categorized as intermediate collagen VI-related myopathy and the remaining patients as Bethlem myopathy. Intermediate patients had a cumulative decline in forced vital capacity of 2.3% per year (P < 0.0001) whereas the relationship between age and forced vital capacity in patients with Bethlem myopathy was not significant (P = 0.1432). Nocturnal non-invasive ventilation was initiated in patients with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy by 11.3 years (±4.0) and in patients with intermediate collagen VI-related myopathy by 20.7 years (±1.5). The relationship between maximal motor ability and forced vital capacity was highly significant (P < 0.0001). This study demonstrates that pulmonary function profiles can be used in combination with motor function profiles to stratify collagen VI-related myopathy patients phenotypically. These findings improve our knowledge of the natural history of the collagen VI-related myopathies, enabling proactive optimization of care and preparing this patient population for clinical trials.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt284
PMCID: PMC3859224  PMID: 24271325
collagen VI-related myopathies; natural history; forced vital capacity; optimization of care; outcome measure
8.  NAD+ Biosynthesis Ameliorates a Zebrafish Model of Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(10):e1001409.
NAD+ improves muscle tissue structure and function in dystrophic zebrafish by increasing basement membrane organization.
Muscular dystrophies are common, currently incurable diseases. A subset of dystrophies result from genetic disruptions in complexes that attach muscle fibers to their surrounding extracellular matrix microenvironment. Cell-matrix adhesions are exquisite sensors of physiological conditions and mediate responses that allow cells to adapt to changing conditions. Thus, one approach towards finding targets for future therapeutic applications is to identify cell adhesion pathways that mediate these dynamic, adaptive responses in vivo. We find that nicotinamide riboside kinase 2b-mediated NAD+ biosynthesis, which functions as a small molecule agonist of muscle fiber-extracellular matrix adhesion, corrects dystrophic phenotypes in zebrafish lacking either a primary component of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex or integrin alpha7. Exogenous NAD+ or a vitamin precursor to NAD+ reduces muscle fiber degeneration and results in significantly faster escape responses in dystrophic embryos. Overexpression of paxillin, a cell adhesion protein downstream of NAD+ in this novel cell adhesion pathway, reduces muscle degeneration in zebrafish with intact integrin receptors but does not improve motility. Activation of this pathway significantly increases organization of laminin, a major component of the extracellular matrix basement membrane. Our results indicate that the primary protective effects of NAD+ result from changes to the basement membrane, as a wild-type basement membrane is sufficient to increase resilience of dystrophic muscle fibers to damage. The surprising result that NAD+ supplementation ameliorates dystrophy in dystrophin-glycoprotein complex– or integrin alpha7–deficient zebrafish suggests the existence of an additional laminin receptor complex that anchors muscle fibers to the basement membrane. We find that integrin alpha6 participates in this pathway, but either integrin alpha7 or the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex is required in conjunction with integrin alpha6 to reduce muscle degeneration. Taken together, these results define a novel cell adhesion pathway that may have future therapeutic relevance for a broad spectrum of muscular dystrophies.
Author Summary
A variety of diseases, both inherited and acquired, affect muscle tissues in humans. Critical to muscle homeostasis is the anchoring of muscle fibers to their surrounding microenvironment through cell adhesion complexes that help to resist the repeated stress experienced during muscle contraction. Genetic mutations in these complexes weaken this mechanical attachment, making fibers more susceptible to damage and death. The resulting increased fiber degeneration can eventually lead to progressive muscle-wasting diseases, known collectively as muscular dystrophies. Although clinical trials are ongoing, there is presently no way to cure the loss of muscle structure and function associated with these diseases. We identified a novel cell adhesion pathway involving integrin alpha6 that promotes adhesion of muscle cells to their microenvironment. Here, we show that activation of this pathway not only significantly reduces muscle degeneration but also improves the swimming ability of dystrophic zebrafish. We explore the likely benefits and limitations of this pathway in treating symptoms of congenital muscular dystrophies. Our findings suggest that activation of this pathway (for example, by boosting levels of NAD+) has the potential to ameliorate loss of muscle structure and function in multiple muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001409
PMCID: PMC3479101  PMID: 23109907
9.  Muscular Dystrophies at Different Ages: Metabolic and Endocrine Alterations 
Common metabolic and endocrine alterations exist across a wide range of muscular dystrophies. Skeletal muscle plays an important role in glucose metabolism and is a major participant in different signaling pathways. Therefore, its damage may lead to different metabolic disruptions. Two of the most important metabolic alterations in muscular dystrophies may be insulin resistance and obesity. However, only insulin resistance has been demonstrated in myotonic dystrophy. In addition, endocrine disturbances such as hypogonadism, low levels of testosterone, and growth hormone have been reported. This eventually will result in consequences such as growth failure and delayed puberty in the case of childhood dystrophies. Other consequences may be reduced male fertility, reduced spermatogenesis, and oligospermia, both in childhood as well as in adult muscular dystrophies. These facts all suggest that there is a need for better comprehension of metabolic and endocrine implications for muscular dystrophies with the purpose of developing improved clinical treatments and/or improvements in the quality of life of patients with dystrophy. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to describe the current knowledge about of metabolic and endocrine alterations in diverse types of dystrophinopathies, which will be divided into two groups: childhood and adult dystrophies which have different age of onset.
doi:10.1155/2012/485376
PMCID: PMC3371686  PMID: 22701119
10.  The link between stress disorders and autonomic dysfunction in muscular dystrophy 
Muscular dystrophy is a progressive disease of muscle weakness, muscle atrophy and cardiac dysfunction. Patients afflicted with muscular dystrophy exhibit autonomic dysfunction along with cognitive impairment, severe depression, sadness, and anxiety. Although the psychological aspects of cardiovascular disorders and stress disorders are well known, the physiological mechanism underlying this relationship is not well understood, particularly in muscular dystrophy. Therefore, the goal of this perspective is to highlight the importance of autonomic dysfunction and psychological stress disorders in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy. This article will for the first time—(i) outline autonomic mechanisms that are common to both psychological stress and cardiovascular disorders in muscular dystrophy; (ii) propose therapies that would improve behavioral and autonomic functions in muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.3389/fphys.2014.00025
PMCID: PMC3905207  PMID: 24523698
heart rate variability; sympathetic nervous system; parasympathetic nervous system; baroreceptor reflex; neuromuscular disease; depression; anxiety
11.  Effect of spinal surgery on lung function in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 
Thorax  1995;50(11):1173-1178.
BACKGROUND--The effect on subsequent respiratory function of spinal stabilisation for scoliosis in Duchenne muscular dystrophy is unclear. In order to clarify this clinical problem, changes in the forced vital capacity of a group of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who had undergone spinal surgery were measured and compared with a group of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who had not had surgery. METHODS--In this retrospective study 17 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who underwent spinal stabilisation at a mean age of 14.9 years (surgical group) were compared with 21 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who had not had surgery (non-surgical group). The mean (SD) Cobb angle of the surgical group at 14.9 years was 57 (16.4) degrees, and of the non-surgical group at 15 years was 45 (29.9) degrees. Forced vital capacity expressed as percentage predicted (% FVC) was measured in total over a seven year period in the surgical group and over 6.5 years in the non-surgical group, and regression equations were calculated. Survival curves for both groups were also constructed. RESULTS--No difference was found between spinal stabilisation (surgical group) and the non-surgical group in the rate of deterioration of % FVC which was 3-5% per year. There was no difference in survival in either group. CONCLUSIONS--Spinal stabilisation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy does not alter the decline in pulmonary function, nor does it improve survival.
PMCID: PMC475089  PMID: 8553273
12.  Distinctive Serum miRNA Profile in Mouse Models of Striated Muscular Pathologies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55281.
Biomarkers are critically important for disease diagnosis and monitoring. In particular, close monitoring of disease evolution is eminently required for the evaluation of therapeutic treatments. Classical monitoring methods in muscular dystrophies are largely based on histological and molecular analyses of muscle biopsies. Such biopsies are invasive and therefore difficult to obtain. The serum protein creatine kinase is a useful biomarker, which is however not specific for a given pathology and correlates poorly with the severity or course of the muscular pathology. The aim of the present study was the systematic evaluation of serum microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers in striated muscle pathologies. Mouse models for five striated muscle pathologies were investigated: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2D (LGMD2D), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C (LGMD2C), Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Two-step RT-qPCR methodology was elaborated, using two different RT-qPCR miRNA quantification technologies. We identified miRNA modulation in the serum of all the five mouse models. The most highly dysregulated serum miRNAs were found to be commonly upregulated in DMD, LGMD2D and LGMD2C mouse models, which all exhibit massive destruction of striated muscle tissues. Some of these miRNAs were down rather than upregulated in the EDMD mice, a model without massive myofiber destruction. The dysregulated miRNAs identified in the HCM model were different, with the exception of one dysregulated miRNA common to all pathologies. Importantly, a specific and distinctive circulating miRNA profile was identified for each studied pathological mouse model. The differential expression of a few dysregulated miRNAs in the DMD mice was further evaluated in DMD patients, providing new candidates of circulating miRNA biomarkers for DMD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055281
PMCID: PMC3572119  PMID: 23418438
13.  A dual acting compound releasing nitric oxide (NO) and ibuprofen, NCX 320, shows significant therapeutic effects in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy 
Pharmacological Research  2011;64(3):210-217.
Graphical abstract
A resolutive therapy for muscular dystrophies, a heterogeneous group of genetic diseases leading to muscular degeneration and in the severe forms to death, is still lacking. Since inflammation and defects in nitric oxide generation are recognized key pathogenic events in muscular dystrophy, we have analysed the effects of a derivative of ibuprofen, NCX 320, belonging to the class of cyclooxygenase inhibiting nitric oxide donator (CINOD), in the α-sarcoglycan null mice, a severe mouse model of dystrophy. NCX 320 was administered daily in the diet for 8 months starting 1 month from weaning. Muscle functional recovery was evaluated by free wheel and treadmill tests at 8 months. Serum creatine kinase activity, as well as the number of diaphragm inflammatory infiltrates and necrotic fibres, was measured as indexes of skeletal muscle damage. Muscle regeneration was evaluated in diaphragm and tibialis anterior muscles, measuring the numbers of centronucleated fibres and of myogenic precursor cells. NCX 320 mitigated muscle damage, reducing significantly serum creatine kinase activity, the number of necrotic fibres and inflammatory infiltrates. Moreover, NCX 320 stimulated muscle regeneration increasing significantly the number of myogenic precursor cells and regenerating fibres. All these effects concurred in inducing a significant improvement of muscle function, as assessed by both free wheel and treadmill tests. These results describe the properties of a new compound incorporating nitric oxide donation together with anti-inflammatory properties, showing that it is effective in slowing muscle dystrophy progression long term. Of importance, this new compound deserves specific attention for its potential in the therapy of muscular dystrophy given that ibuprofen is well tolerated in paediatric patients and with a profile of safety that makes it suitable for chronic treatment such as the one required in muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2011.05.003
PMCID: PMC3134707  PMID: 21609764
NO, nitric oxide; DMD, Duchenne muscular dystrophy; NCX 320, 4-(nitrooxy)butyl 2-(4-isobutylphenyl)propanoate; CINOD, cyclooxygenase inhibiting nitric oxide donator; nNOS, neuronal nitric oxide synthase; LPS, lipopolysaccharide from Escherichia coli; PGE2, prostaglandin E2; IFNγ, interferon-γ; COX-1, cyclooxygenase 1; COX-2, cyclooxygenase 2; ODQ, 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one; cGMP, cyclic guanosine monophosphate; CK, creatine kinase; α-SG, α-sarcoglycan; mdx, muscle dystrophin-deficient mice; Nitric oxide; Inflammation; Muscular dystrophy; Skeletal muscle regeneration; NCX 320; Ibuprofen
14.  Therapeutic advances in muscular dystrophy 
Annals of Neurology  2013;74(3):404-411.
The muscular dystrophies comprise a heterogeneous group of genetic disorders that produce progressive skeletal muscle weakness and wasting. There has been rapid growth and change in our understanding of these disorders in recent years, and advances in basic science are being translated into increasing numbers of clinical trials. This review will discuss therapeutic developments in 3 of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy: Duchenne muscular dystrophy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, and myotonic dystrophy. Each of these disorders represents a different class of genetic disease (monogenic, epigenetic, and repeat expansion disorders), and the approach to therapy addresses the diverse and complex molecular mechanisms involved in these diseases. The large number of novel pharmacologic agents in development with good biologic rationale and strong proof of concept suggests there will be an improved quality of life for individuals with muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1002/ana.23989
PMCID: PMC3886293  PMID: 23939629
15.  The heart in limb girdle muscular dystrophy 
Heart  1998;79(1):73-77.
Objective—To assess the frequency, nature, and severity of cardiac abnormalities in limb girdle muscular dystrophy, and its relation to age and weakness in various genotypes.
Design—In 26 autosomal dominant, 38 autosomal recessive, and 33 sporadic strictly defined patients with limb girdle muscular dystrophy, cardiac evaluation included history, physical examination, chest x ray, electrocardiography, 24 hour ECG Holter monitoring, and echocardiography. In 35 of the 71 autosomal recessive and sporadic cases muscle biopsies were available for sarcoglycan analysis.
Main results—Dilated cardiomyopathy was present in one autosomal dominant case and in three advanced autosomal recessive or sporadic patients, of whom two were found to have α sarcoglycan deficiency. Two of these three patients and three other cases showed ECG abnormalities known to be characteristic of the dystrophinopathies. A strong association between the absence of α sarcoglycan and the presence of dilated cardiomyopathy was found (p = 0.04). In six autosomal dominant cases there were atrioventricular (AV) conduction disturbances, increasing in severity with age and in concomitant presence of muscle weakness. Pacemaker implantation was necessary in four.
Conclusions—10% of these patients had clinically relevant cardiac abnormalities. In autosomal dominant limb girdle muscular dystrophy one subtype characterised by muscle weakness and AV conduction disturbances is recognised. In the course of autosomal recessive/sporadic limb girdle muscular dystrophy, dilated cardiomyopathy may develop, probably related to deficiency of dystrophin associated proteins.

 Keywords: limb girdle muscular dystrophy;  cardiomyopathy;  AV conduction block;  sarcoglycan
PMCID: PMC1728583  PMID: 9505924
16.  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
17.  Therapeutic Targeting of Signaling Pathways in Muscular Dystrophy 
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of genetic diseases that cause severe muscle weakness and loss of skeletal muscle mass. Although research has helped understanding the molecular basis of muscular dystrophy, there is still no cure for this devastating disorder. Numerous lines of investigation suggest that the primary deficiency of specific proteins causes aberrant activation of several cell signaling pathways in skeletal and cardiac muscle leading to the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy. Studies using genetic mouse models and pharmacological approaches have provided strong evidence that the modulation of the activity of specific cell signaling pathways has enormous potential to improving the quality of life and extending the life expectancy in muscular dystrophy patients. In this article, we have outlined the current understanding regarding the role of different cell signaling pathways in disease progression with particular reference to different models of muscular dystrophy and the development of therapy.
doi:10.1007/s00109-009-0550-4
PMCID: PMC2833214  PMID: 19816663
Muscular dystrophy; Signaling; NF-κB; MAPK; Akt; calcineurin/NFAT
18.  The Effect of Enalapril and Carvedilol on Left Ventricular Dysfunction in Middle Childhood and Adolescent Patients With Muscular Dystrophy 
Korean Circulation Journal  2012;42(3):184-191.
Background and Objectives
In Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, cardiac function deteriorates with time resulting in heart failure which is often fatal. We prospectively evaluated the effect of enalapril and carvedilol on left ventricular (LV) dysfunction in middle childhood and adolescent patients with muscular dystrophy.
Subjects and Methods
Twenty-three patients with LV dysfunction (22 with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, 1 with Becker muscular dystrophy) were enrolled. We prescribed enalapril (13 patients) or carvedilol (10 patients) randomly from July 2008 to August 2010 and followed up the patients until September 2011. The changes in LV function parameters before and after the treatment were evaluated by echocardiography.
Results
The mean age at the start of treatment with enalapril or carvedilol was 12.6±3.7 years (median 13 years), and mean follow-up duration was 20.1±8.9 months. In the enalapril group, LV fractional shortening (FS) increased from 25.8±2.1 to 26.6±3.0 (p=0.241). In the carvedilol group, LV FS increased from 26.4±1.1 to 28.6±4.2 (p=0.110). In all 23 patients, LV FS significantly increased from 26.1±1.7 (before) to 27.6±3.7 (after treatment) (p<0.046). Indexed LV dimension at end diastole and LV end-diastolic volume decreased slightly, but without statistical significance by tri-plane volumetry. LV diastolic functional parameters were maintained during follow-up period.
Conclusion
Enalapril or carvedilol could improve LV systolic function in middle childhood and adolescent patients with muscular dystrophy without significant adverse effects.
doi:10.4070/kcj.2012.42.3.184
PMCID: PMC3318090  PMID: 22493613
Cardiomyopathies; Carvedilol; Echocardiography; Enalapril; Muscular dystrophies
19.  Latent TGF-β–binding protein 4 modifies muscular dystrophy in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(12):3703-3712.
Most single-gene diseases, including muscular dystrophy, display a nonuniform phenotype. Phenotypic variability arises, in part, due to the presence of genetic modifiers that enhance or suppress the disease process. We employed an unbiased mapping approach to search for genes that modify muscular dystrophy in mice. In a genome-wide scan, we identified a single strong locus on chromosome 7 that influenced two pathological features of muscular dystrophy, muscle membrane permeability and muscle fibrosis. Within this genomic interval, an insertion/deletion polymorphism of 36 bp in the coding region of the latent TGF-β–binding protein 4 gene (Ltbp4) was found. Ltbp4 encodes a latent TGF-β–binding protein that sequesters TGF-β and regulates its availability for binding to the TGF-β receptor. Insertion of 12 amino acids into the proline-rich region of LTBP4 reduced proteolytic cleavage and was associated with reduced TGF-β signaling, decreased fibrosis, and improved muscle pathology in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. In contrast, a 12-amino-acid deletion in LTBP4 was associated with increased proteolysis, SMAD signaling, and fibrosis. These data identify Ltbp4 as a target gene to regulate TGF-β signaling and modify outcomes in muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1172/JCI39845
PMCID: PMC2786802  PMID: 19884661
20.  Combined Effect of AMPK/PPAR Agonists and Exercise Training in mdx Mice Functional Performance 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45699.
The present investigation was undertaken to test whether exercise training (ET) associated with AMPK/PPAR agonists (EM) would improve skeletal muscle function in mdx mice. These drugs have the potential to improve oxidative metabolism. This is of particular interest because oxidative muscle fibers are less affected in the course of the disease than glycolitic counterparts. Therefore, a cohort of 34 male congenic C57Bl/10J mdx mice included in this study was randomly assigned into four groups: vehicle solution (V), EM [AICAR (AMPK agonist, 50 mg/Kg-1.day-1, ip) and GW 1516 (PPARδ agonist, 2.5 mg/Kg-1.day-1, gavage)], ET (voluntary running on activity wheel) and EM+ET. Functional performance (grip meter and rotarod), aerobic capacity (running test), muscle histopathology, serum creatine kinase (CK), levels of ubiquitined proteins, oxidative metabolism protein expression (AMPK, PPAR, myoglobin and SCD) and intracellular calcium handling (DHPR, SERCA and NCX) protein expression were analyzed. Treatments started when the animals were two months old and were maintained for one month. A significant functional improvement (p<0.05) was observed in animals submitted to the combination of ET and EM. CK levels were decreased and the expression of proteins related to oxidative metabolism was increased in this group. There were no differences among the groups in the intracellular calcium handling protein expression. To our knowledge, this is the first study that tested the association of ET with EM in an experimental model of muscular dystrophy. Our results suggest that the association of ET and EM should be further tested as a potential therapeutic approach in muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045699
PMCID: PMC3448675  PMID: 23029189
21.  Long-term improvement in mdx cardiomyopathy after therapy with peptide-conjugated morpholino oligomers† 
Cardiovascular Research  2009;85(3):444-453.
Aims
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1093/cvr/cvp335
PMCID: PMC2802205  PMID: 19815563
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Morpholino; Oligomers; Cardiomyopathy; Therapy; Exon skipping; Alternative RNA splicing
22.  Effects of an Immunosuppressive Treatment in the GRMD Dog Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48478.
The GRMD (Golden retriever muscular dystrophy) dog has been widely used in pre-clinical trials targeting DMD (Duchenne muscular dystrophy), using in many cases a concurrent immune-suppressive treatment. The aim of this study is to assess if such a treatment could have an effect on the disease course of these animals. Seven GRMD dogs were treated with an association of cyclosporine A (immunosuppressive dosage) and prednisolone (2 mg/kg/d) during 7 months, from 2 to 9 months of age. A multi-parametric evaluation was performed during this period which allowed us to demonstrate that this treatment had several significant effects on the disease progression. The gait quality as assessed by 3D-accelerometry was dramatically improved. This was consistent with the evolution of other parameters towards a significant improvement, such as the clinical motor score, the post-tetanic relaxation and the serum CK levels. In contrast the isometric force measurement as well as the histological evaluation argued in favor of a more severe disease progression. In view of the disease modifying effects which have been observed in this study it should be concluded that immunosuppressive treatments should be used with caution when carrying out pre-clinical studies in this canine model of DMD. They also highlight the importance of using a large range of multi-parametric evaluation tools to reliably draw any conclusion from trials involving dystrophin-deficient dogs, which reproduce the complexity of the human disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048478
PMCID: PMC3504044  PMID: 23185260
23.  The superhealing MRL background improves muscular dystrophy 
Skeletal Muscle  2012;2:26.
Background
Mice from the MRL or “superhealing” strain have enhanced repair after acute injury to the skin, cornea, and heart. We now tested an admixture of the MRL genome and found that it altered the course of muscle pathology and cardiac function in a chronic disease model of skeletal and cardiac muscle. Mice lacking γ-sarcoglycan (Sgcg), a dystrophin-associated protein, develop muscular dystrophy and cardiomyopathy similar to their human counterparts with limb girdle muscular dystrophy. With disruption of the dystrophin complex, the muscle plasma membrane becomes leaky and muscles develop increased fibrosis.
Methods
MRL/MpJ mice were bred with Sgcg mice, and cardiac function was measured. Muscles were assessed for fibrosis and membrane leak using measurements of hydroxyproline and Evans blue dye. Quantitative trait locus mapping was conducted using single nucleotide polymorphisms distinct between the two parental strains.
Results
Introduction of the MRL genome reduced fibrosis but did not alter membrane leak in skeletal muscle of the Sgcg model. The MRL genome was also associated with improved cardiac function with reversal of depressed fractional shortening and the left ventricular ejection fraction. We conducted a genome-wide analysis of genetic modifiers and found that a region on chromosome 2 was associated with cardiac, diaphragm muscle and abdominal muscle fibrosis.
Conclusions
These data are consistent with a model where the MRL genome acts in a dominant manner to suppress fibrosis in this chronic disease setting of heart and muscle disease.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-2-26
PMCID: PMC3534636  PMID: 23216833
Cardiomyopathy; Fibrosis; MRL; Muscular dystrophy
24.  Comparative Genomics of X-linked Muscular Dystrophies: The Golden Retriever Model 
Current Genomics  2013;14(5):330-342.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating disease that dramatically decreases the lifespan and abilities of affected young people. The primary molecular cause of the disease is the absence of functional dystrophin protein, which is critical to proper muscle function. Those with DMD vary in disease presentation and dystrophin mutation; the same causal mutation may be associated with drastically different levels of disease severity. Also contributing to this variation are the influences of additional modifying genes and/or changes in functional elements governing such modifiers. This genetic heterogeneity complicates the efficacy of treatment methods and to date medical interventions are limited to treating symptoms. Animal models of DMD have been instrumental in teasing out the intricacies of DMD disease and hold great promise for advancing knowledge of its variable presentation and treatment. This review addresses the utility of comparative genomics in elucidating the complex background behind phenotypic variation in a canine model of DMD, Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD). This knowledge can be exploited in the development of improved, more personalized treatments for DMD patients, such as therapies that can be tailor-matched to the disease course and genomic background of individual patients.
doi:10.2174/13892029113149990004
PMCID: PMC3763684  PMID: 24403852
Genomics; Comparative genomics; Golden retriever muscular dystrophy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Animal models of DMD; Canine dystrophin
25.  GENE AND CELL-MEDIATED THERAPIES FOR MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY 
Muscle & nerve  2013;47(5):649-663.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating muscle disorder that affects 1 in 3500 boys. Despite years of research and considerable progress in understanding the molecular mechanism of the disease and advancement of therapeutic approaches, there is no cure for DMD. The current treatment options are limited to physiotherapy and corticosteroids, and although they provide a substantial improvement in affected children, they only slow the course of the disorder. On a more optimistic note, the most recent approaches either significantly alleviate or eliminate muscular dystrophy in murine and canine models of DMD and importantly, many of them are being tested in early phase human clinical trials. This review summarizes advancements that have been made in viral and non-viral gene therapy as well as stem cell therapy for DMD with a focus on the replacement and repair of the affected dystrophin gene.
doi:10.1002/mus.23738
PMCID: PMC4077844  PMID: 23553671
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; gene therapy; cell therapy; dystrophin; stem cells

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