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1.  Diagnosis and cell-based therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in humans, mice, and zebrafish 
Journal of human genetics  2006;51(5):397-406.
The muscular dystrophies are a heterogeneous group of genetically caused muscle degenerative disorders. The Kunkel laboratory has had a longstanding research program into the pathogenesis and treatment of these diseases. Starting with our identification of dystrophin as the defective protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), we have continued our work on normal dystrophin function and how it is altered in muscular dystrophy. Our work has led to the identification of the defective genes in three forms of limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) and a better understanding of how muscle degenerates in many of the different dystrophies. The identification of mutations causing human forms of dystrophy has lead to improved diagnosis for patients with the disease. We are continuing to improve the molecular diagnosis of the dystrophies and have developed a high-throughput sequencing approach for the low-cost rapid diagnosis of all known forms of dystrophy. In addition, we are continuing to work on therapies using available animal models. Currently, there are a number of mouse models of the human dystrophies, the most notable being the mdx mouse with dystrophin deficiency. These mice are being used to test possible therapies, including stem-cell-based approaches. We have been able to systemically deliver human dystrophin to these mice via the arterial circulation and convert 8% of dystrophin-deficient fibers to fibers expressing human dystrophin. We are now expanding our research to identify new forms of LGMD by analyzing zebrafish models of muscular dystrophy. Currently, we have 14 different zebrafish mutants exhibiting various phenotypes of muscular dystrophy, including muscle weakness and inactivity. One of these mutants carries a stop codon mutation in dystrophin, and we have recently identified another carrying a mutation in titin. We are currently positionally cloning the disease-causative mutation in the remaining 12 mutant strains. We hope that one of these new mutant strains of fish will have a mutation in a gene not previously implicated in human muscular dystrophy. This gene would become a candidate gene to be analyzed in patients which do not carry a mutation in any of the known dystrophy-associated genes. By studying both disease pathology and investigating potential therapies, we hope to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3518425  PMID: 16583129
DNA sequencing; Muscle; Muscular dystrophy; Stem cells; Zebrafish
2.  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.
PMCID: PMC3905207  PMID: 24523698
heart rate variability; sympathetic nervous system; parasympathetic nervous system; baroreceptor reflex; neuromuscular disease; depression; anxiety
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC3886293  PMID: 23939629
4.  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.
PMCID: PMC2833214  PMID: 19816663
Muscular dystrophy; Signaling; NF-κB; MAPK; Akt; calcineurin/NFAT
5.  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.
PMCID: PMC3504044  PMID: 23185260
6.  Distinctive Serum miRNA Profile in Mouse Models of Striated Muscular Pathologies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55281.
Biomarkers are critically important for disease diagnosis and monitoring. In particular, close monitoring of disease evolution is eminently required for the evaluation of therapeutic treatments. Classical monitoring methods in muscular dystrophies are largely based on histological and molecular analyses of muscle biopsies. Such biopsies are invasive and therefore difficult to obtain. The serum protein creatine kinase is a useful biomarker, which is however not specific for a given pathology and correlates poorly with the severity or course of the muscular pathology. The aim of the present study was the systematic evaluation of serum microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers in striated muscle pathologies. Mouse models for five striated muscle pathologies were investigated: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2D (LGMD2D), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C (LGMD2C), Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Two-step RT-qPCR methodology was elaborated, using two different RT-qPCR miRNA quantification technologies. We identified miRNA modulation in the serum of all the five mouse models. The most highly dysregulated serum miRNAs were found to be commonly upregulated in DMD, LGMD2D and LGMD2C mouse models, which all exhibit massive destruction of striated muscle tissues. Some of these miRNAs were down rather than upregulated in the EDMD mice, a model without massive myofiber destruction. The dysregulated miRNAs identified in the HCM model were different, with the exception of one dysregulated miRNA common to all pathologies. Importantly, a specific and distinctive circulating miRNA profile was identified for each studied pathological mouse model. The differential expression of a few dysregulated miRNAs in the DMD mice was further evaluated in DMD patients, providing new candidates of circulating miRNA biomarkers for DMD.
PMCID: PMC3572119  PMID: 23418438
7.  Growth hormone inhibition causes increased selenium levels in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a possible new approach to therapy. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1984;21(4):254-256.
Nine children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy were given Sanorex (mazindol), a growth hormone inhibitor, daily for 6 months. There was no significant change in their muscle function, but there was a significant reduction in weight gain and in levels of growth hormone, somatomedin C, hair zinc, serum zinc, and serum LDH. Selenium and glutathione peroxidase in the serum increased significantly. Thirteen other children with growth hormone deficiency had a significant reduction in hair selenium following growth hormone administration. These results show a significant relationship between growth hormone and selenium nutritional status and confirm our previous reports indicating an effect of growth hormone on zinc nutritional status. It is possible that prolonged therapy with a growth hormone inhibitor would attenuate the course and improve the longevity of patients with muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC1049292  PMID: 6492089
8.  Treatment of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy with Denosumab 
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.
Further studies will be required to establish Denosumab as a major “front line” treatment for this disease and possibly other muscular dystrophies.
PMCID: PMC3615920  PMID: 23569491
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; FSHD; Denosumab
9.  Early diagnosis and secondary prevention of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  1989;64(6):787-790.
A total of 33 young boys (mean age 3.4 years) with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and 21 normal controls (mean age 3.5 years) were assessed using the Griffiths's mental development scales and the Reynell language scales. The boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy were significantly developmentally delayed when compared with the control group. The developmental delay was most pronounced in locomotor function and language. There was no significant difference in social class distribution. Early diagnosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy is of vital importance if secondary cases within families are to be prevented. While diagnosis is still unacceptably late in most cases, it can be improved if all boys with this pattern of developmental delay are screened for Duchenne muscular dystrophy by measurement of creatine kinase activity.
PMCID: PMC1792549  PMID: 2476078
10.  Dystrophin quantification and clinical correlations in Becker muscular dystrophy: implications for clinical trials 
Brain  2011;134(12):3544-3556.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the DMD gene that disrupt the open reading frame and prevent the full translation of its protein product, dystrophin. Restoration of the open reading frame and dystrophin production can be achieved by exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides targeted to splicing elements. This approach aims to transform the Duchenne muscular dystrophy phenotype to that of the milder disorder, Becker muscular dystrophy, typically caused by in-frame dystrophin deletions that allow the production of an internally deleted but partially functional dystrophin. There is ongoing debate regarding the functional properties of the different internally deleted dystrophins produced by exon skipping for different mutations; more insight would be valuable to improve and better predict the outcome of exon skipping clinical trials. To this end, we have characterized the clinical phenotype of 17 patients with Becker muscular dystrophy harbouring in-frame deletions relevant to on-going or planned exon skipping clinical trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and correlated it to the levels of dystrophin, and dystrophin-associated protein expression. The cohort of 17 patients, selected exclusively on the basis of their genotype, included 4 asymptomatic, 12 mild and 1 severe patient. All patients had dystrophin levels of >40% of control and significantly higher dystrophin (P = 0.013), β-dystroglycan (P = 0.025) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (P = 0.034) expression was observed in asymptomatic individuals versus symptomatic patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, grouping the patients by deletion, patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions with an end-point of exon 51 (the skipping of which could rescue the largest group of Duchenne muscular dystrophy deletions) showed significantly higher dystrophin levels (P = 0.034) than those with deletions ending with exon 53. This is the first quantitative study on both dystrophin and dystrophin-associated protein expression in patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions relevant for on-going exon skipping trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Taken together, our results indicate that all varieties of internally deleted dystrophin assessed in this study have the functional capability to provide a substantial clinical benefit to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3235564  PMID: 22102647
Becker muscular dystrophy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; nNOS; dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex; therapy
11.  Expression Profiling in the Muscular Dystrophies 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;151(6):1321-1336.
We used expression profiling to define the pathophysiological cascades involved in the progression of two muscular dystrophies with known primary biochemical defects, dystrophin deficiency (Duchenne muscular dystrophy) and α-sarcoglycan deficiency (a dystrophin-associated protein). We employed a novel protocol for expression profiling in human tissues using mixed samples of multiple patients and iterative comparisons of duplicate datasets. We found evidence for both incomplete differentiation of patient muscle, and for dedifferentiation of myofibers to alternative lineages with advancing age. One developmentally regulated gene characterized in detail, α-cardiac actin, showed abnormal persistent expression after birth in 60% of Duchenne dystrophy myofibers. The majority of myofibers (∼80%) remained strongly positive for this protein throughout the course of the disease. Other developmentally regulated genes that showed widespread overexpression in these muscular dystrophies included embryonic myosin heavy chain, versican, acetylcholine receptor α-1, secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine/osteonectin, and thrombospondin 4. We hypothesize that the abnormal Ca2+ influx in dystrophin- and α-sarcoglycan–deficient myofibers leads to altered developmental programming of developing and regenerating myofibers. The finding of upregulation of HLA-DR and factor XIIIa led to the novel identification of activated dendritic cell infiltration in dystrophic muscle; these cells mediate immune responses and likely induce microenvironmental changes in muscle. We also document a general metabolic crisis in dystrophic muscle, with large scale downregulation of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial gene expression. Finally, our expression profiling results show that primary genetic defects can be identified by a reduction in the corresponding RNA.
PMCID: PMC2190600  PMID: 11121445
muscular dystrophy; microarray; dystrophin; α-sarcoglycan; expression profiling
12.  Effectiveness of teleassistance on the improvement of health related quality of life in people with neuromuscular diseases 
Neuromuscular diseases are a group of pathologies characterized by the progressive loss of muscular strength, atrophy or hypertrophy, fatigue, muscle pain and degeneration of the muscles and the nerves controlling them (The French Muscular Dystrophy Association, 2004). Perceived isolation and health related quality of life are affected in the majority of cases due to the illness chronicity. Internet, and in this way, the use of chat and videoconferencing programs, is an alternative option to mitigate the mentioned variables.
The aim of the study is to assess the effectiveness of teleassistance on reducing isolation and improving health related quality of life in adults with neuromuscular diseases.
The sample is composed of 60 participants randomly selected and affected by different neuromuscular diseases (e.g. Myasthenia Gravis, Becker Muscular Dystrophy, Facioescapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, etc.). Thirty patients were assigned to the experimental group, which participated in the chat and videoconferencing sessions, and the other thirty to the control group, which did not participate. The inclusion criteria for both groups were: medical confirmed diagnosis (CIE-10) of one of the diseases mentioned above, age ≥18 years, agreeing to participate in the study by signing an informed consent, and finally, ability to manipulate a computer (just for the experimental group). The exclusion criteria for both groups were to have a psychiatric disorder (DSM-IV-TR), head trauma or severe visual limitations. All the patients were recruited from neuromuscular disorders associations and Hospitals of The Basque Country. Effectiveness were assessed by a pre-post design in which questionnaires and interviews were administrated (e.g. Disability Assessment Schedule—WHO-DAS II, Sickness Impact Profile, The MOS Social Support Survey, etc.). The online support entails different activities developed during three months in once a week sessions: a) Group videoconference sessions with a Psychologist, b) Individual videoconference sessions with a Neurologist, and c) Forum discussion groups about biopsychosocial issues. The psychologist counseling consists on a psychosocial program about general topics such as illness information, emotional reactions to the disease, the most frequently automatic thoughts, etc. A web site was developed to carry out the intervention: An exhaustive preliminary analysis of this pre-post assessment is necessary in order to know if the psychosocial programme is effective and if it could be a helpful tool for this type of population.
Preliminary results will be presented in order to confirm if teleassistance is an effective alternative way of advising people with neuromuscular disorders.
PMCID: PMC3571156
teleassistance; online support; neuromuscular disease; isolation; quality of life
13.  LGMD2I in a North American population 
There is a marked variation in clinical phenotypes that have been associated with mutations in FKRP, ranging from severe congenital muscular dystrophies to limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2I (LGMD2I).
We screened the FKRP gene in two cohorts totaling 87 patients with the LGMD phenotype.
The c.826C>A, p.L276I mutation was present in six patients and a compound heterozygote mutation in a seventh patient. Six patients had a mild LGMD2I phenotype, which resembles that of Becker muscular dystrophy. The other patient had onset before the age of 3 years, and thus may follow a more severe course.
These findings suggest that LGMD2I may be common in certain North American populations. This diagnosis should be considered early in the evaluation of LGMD.
PMCID: PMC2216011  PMID: 18036232
14.  Cardiac and Pulmonary Function Variability in Duchenne/Becker Muscular Dystrophy: An Initial Report 
Journal of child neurology  2010;25(9):1110-1115.
The Duchenne and Becker forms of muscular dystrophy are associated with dilated cardiomyopathy and are diseases in which pulmonary function peaks, then progressively declines. In this report, we quantify cardiopulmonary function variability among brothers. Brothers in 3 of 7 eligible sibships had discordant pulmonary function, with significant differences between the brothers' peak forced vital capacities and their vital capacities at last comparable age. There was no relationship between pulmonary and cardiac function among the siblings. We concluded that despite identical genetic mutations, cardiac and pulmonary function variability was common among brothers in our clinic with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy. If confirmed by larger studies, these results have negative implications for use of genetic testing to predict cardiopulmonary course and response to therapies in Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3674812  PMID: 20501885
Becker muscular dystrophy; cardiomyopathy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; genetics; genotype; muscular dystrophy; phenotype; pulmonary function
15.  Localisation of the gene for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy to the distal long arm of the X chromosome. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1986;23(6):596-598.
The linkage relationships of the gene for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy have been analysed in a large American kindred using DNA probes from different regions of the X chromosome. Close linkage was found with the locus for factor VIII, with no recombinants in 12 opportunities (maximum lod score 4.3), and with locus DXS15 (two recombinants in 17 opportunities, maximum lod score 2.9 at 0 = 10 cM). No linkage was found with probes pERT87 and 754, which are closely linked to Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies at Xp21. These results confirm a separate localisation on the distal part of the long arm at q27-28 for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and should provide the basis for prenatal diagnosis and improved carrier detection in this disorder if the linkage is confirmed to be close.
PMCID: PMC1049843  PMID: 3100805
16.  Measurement of the clinical utility of a combined mutation detection protocol in carriers of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2007;44(6):368-372.
Recent methodological advances have improved the detection rate for dystrophin mutations, but there are no published studies that have measured the clinical utility of these protocols for carrier detection compared with conventional carrier testing protocols that use pedigree, serum creatine kinase levels and linkage analysis.
Methods and subjects
The clinical utility of a combined mutation detection protocol was measured. It involved quantitative PCR procedures followed by DNA sequence analysis for the identification of dystrophin mutation carriers in 2101 women at risk of being carriers from 348 mutation‐known Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy pedigrees.
The combined mutation detection protocol identified a mutation in 96% and 82% of index cases of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Becker muscular dystrophy, respectively. An additional 692 (33%) potential carriers were correctly classified by the combined mutation detection protocol compared with pedigree, serum creatine kinase levels and linkage analysis. Significantly lower mutation carrier rates were identified in the mothers of isolated cases with deletion mutations than predicted from theoretical considerations, but these findings were not confirmed for duplication and DNA sequence mutations.
There are significant clinical benefits to be gained from a combined mutation detection protocol for carrier detection. It is recommended that mutation‐specific carrier frequencies for the different classes of dystrophin mutations should be taken into account in genetic counselling practice.
PMCID: PMC2740880  PMID: 17259292
17.  β1D chain increases α7β1 integrin and laminin and protects against sarcolemmal damage in mdx mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(7):1592-1603.
The dystrophin–glycoprotein complex connects myofibers with extracellular matrix laminin. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, this linkage system is absent and the integrity of muscle fibers is compromised. One potential therapy for addressing muscular dystrophy is to augment the amount of α7β1 integrin, the major laminin-binding integrin in skeletal muscle. Whereas transgenic over-expression of α7 chain may alleviate development of muscular dystrophy and extend the lifespan of severely dystrophic mdx/utrn−/− mice, further enhancing levels of α7 chain provided little additional membrane integrin and negligible additional improvement in mdx mice. We demonstrate here that normal levels of β1 chain limit formation of integrin heterodimer and that increasing β1D chain in mdx mice results in more functional integrin at the sarcolemma, more matrix laminin and decreased damage of muscle fibers. Moreover, increasing the amount of β1D chain in vitro enhances transcription of α7 integrin and α2 laminin genes and the amounts of these proteins. Thus manipulation of β1D integrin expression offers a novel approach to enhance integrin-mediated therapy for muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3298282  PMID: 22180459
18.  Expression of transforming growth factor-beta 1 in dystrophic patient muscles correlates with fibrosis. Pathogenetic role of a fibrogenic cytokine. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1995;96(2):1137-1144.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a fatal disorder characterized by progressive muscular weakness, wasting, and severe muscle contractures in later disease stages. Muscle biopsy reveals conspicuous myofiber degeneration and fibrosis substituting muscle tissue. We quantitatively determined mRNA of the potent fibrogenic cytokine transforming growth factor-beta 1 by quantitative PCR in 15 Duchenne muscular dystrophy, 13 Becker muscular dystrophy, 11 spinal muscular atrophy patients, and 16 controls. Higher transforming growth factor-beta 1 expression was greater in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients than controls (P = 0.012) and Becker patients (P = 0.03). Fibrosis was significantly more prominent in Duchenne muscular dystrophy than Becker muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, and controls. The proportion of connective tissue in muscle biopsies increased progressively with age in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients, while transforming growth factor-beta 1 levels peaked at 2 and 6 yr of age. Transforming growth factor-beta 1 protein was also detected by immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting. Our findings suggest that transforming growth factor-beta 1 stimulates fibrosis in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Expression of transforming growth factor-beta 1 in the early stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy may be critical in initiating muscle fibrosis and antifibrosis treatment could slow progression of the disease, increasing the utility of gene therapy.
PMCID: PMC185304  PMID: 7635950
19.  Granulocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor Improves MDX Mouse Response to Peripheral Nerve Injury 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42803.
G-CSF has been shown to increase neuronal survival, which may positively influence the spinal cord microenvironment during the course of muscular dystrophies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Male MDX mice that were six weeks of age received a left sciatic nerve transection and were treated with intraperitoneal injections of 200 µg/kg/day of G-CSF 7 days before and 7 days after the transection. The axotomy was performed after the cycles of muscular degeneration/regeneration, consistent with previous descriptions of this model of muscular dystrophy. C57BL/10 mice were used as control subjects. Seven days after the surgery, the animals were sacrificed and their lumbar spinal cords were processed for immunohistochemistry (anti-MHC I, anti-Synaptophysin, anti-GFAP and anti-IBA-1) and transmission electron microscopy. MHC I expression increased in both strains of mice after the axotomy. Nevertheless, the MDX mice displayed a significantly smaller MHC I upregulation than the control mice. Regarding GFAP expression, the MDX mice showed a stronger astrogliosis compared with the C57BL/10 mice across all groups. Both groups that were treated with G-CSF demonstrated preservation of synaptophysin expression compared with the untreated and placebo groups. The quantitative analysis of the ultrastructural level showed a preservation of the synaptic covering for the both groups that were treated with G-CSF and the axotomized groups showed a smaller loss of synaptic contact in relation to the treated groups after the lesion.
The reduction of active inputs to the alpha-motoneurons and increased astrogliosis in the axotomized and control groups may be associated with the cycles of muscle degeneration/regeneration that occur postnatally. The G-CSF treated group showed a preservation of the spinal cord microenvironment after the lesion. Moreover, the increase of MHC I expression in the MDX mice that were treated with G-CSF may indicate that this drug performs an active role in regenerative potential after lesions.
PMCID: PMC3418329  PMID: 22912741
20.  SERUM ENZYMES—Variations of Activity in Disease of Muscle† 
California Medicine  1959;90(1):1-8.
In a study of 58 patients with various diseases of muscle or of the neuromuscular system, the serum activity of various enzymes was measured. Abnormal elevation of serum activities of aldolase, lactic dehydrogenase and, to a lesser extent, glutamic-oxalacetic transaminase and phosphohexose isomerase, was an almost constant feature in patients with progressive muscular dystrophy. These elevations were very frequent in dermatomyositis, common in acute cerebral vascular accidents, and rarely seen in other neurological disorders. Abnormal serum activity of iso-citric dehydrogenase was not observed in the course of the present study.
Supplementary protein feeding of patients with muscular dystrophy had no effect on serum enzyme activity, no consistent effect on urinary creatine excretion and no effect on the strength of the patient or the course of the disease.
Dystrophic muscles from a dystrophic strain of mice showed a decrease in activity of lactic dehydrogenase and aldolase below that of control muscle and an increase of iso-citric dehydrogenase activity. These findings, taken with the differences in serum activities of lactic dehydrogenase, aldolase and isocitric dehydrogenase in the dystrophic animals, support the conclusion that dystrophic animals handle these soluble enzymes in quite different ways.
PMCID: PMC1577511  PMID: 13618735
21.  Functional Substitution by TAT-Utrophin in Dystrophin-Deficient Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000083.
James Ervasti and colleagues show that injection of a truncated form of utrophin transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, and reduced serum levels of creatine kinase in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy.
The loss of dystrophin compromises muscle cell membrane stability and causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy and/or various forms of cardiomyopathy. Increased expression of the dystrophin homolog utrophin by gene delivery or pharmacologic up-regulation has been demonstrated to restore membrane integrity and improve the phenotype in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse. However, the lack of a viable therapy in humans predicates the need to explore alternative methods to combat dystrophin deficiency. We investigated whether systemic administration of recombinant full-length utrophin (Utr) or ΔR4-21 “micro” utrophin (μUtr) protein modified with the cell-penetrating TAT protein transduction domain could attenuate the phenotype of mdx mice.
Methods and Findings
Recombinant TAT-Utr and TAT-μUtr proteins were expressed using the baculovirus system and purified using FLAG-affinity chromatography. Age-matched mdx mice received six twice-weekly intraperitoneal injections of either recombinant protein or PBS. Three days after the final injection, mice were analyzed for several phenotypic parameters of dystrophin deficiency. Injected TAT-μUtr transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, reduced serum levels of creatine kinase (11,290±920 U versus 5,950±1,120 U; PBS versus TAT), the prevalence of muscle degeneration/regeneration (54%±5% versus 37%±4% of centrally nucleated fibers; PBS versus TAT), the susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced force drop (72%±5% versus 40%±8% drop; PBS versus TAT), and increased specific force production (9.7±1.1 N/cm2 versus 12.8±0.9 N/cm2; PBS versus TAT).
These results are, to our knowledge, the first to establish the efficacy and feasibility of TAT-utrophin-based constructs as a novel direct protein-replacement therapy for the treatment of skeletal and cardiac muscle diseases caused by loss of dystrophin.
Editors' Summary
Muscular dystrophies are genetic (inherited) diseases in which the body's muscles gradually weaken and degenerate. The commonest and most severe muscular dystrophy—Duchenne muscular dystrophy—affects 1 in 3,500 boys (girls can be carriers of the disease but rarely have any symptoms). At birth, these boys seem normal but the symptoms of their disease begin to appear in early childhood. Affected children may initially have difficulty walking or find it to hard to sit or stand independently. As they age, their muscle strength progressively declines and most affected boys are confined to a wheelchair by the time they are 12 years old. The muscles involved in breathing also weaken and the heart muscle becomes enlarged. Few boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy live beyond their early 20 s, usually dying from breathing or heart problems. At present there is no cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, physical therapy and treatment with steroids can prolong the ability of patients to walk, and assisted ventilation can help with their breathing.
Why Was This Study Done?
In all muscular dystrophies, one of the proteins needed to build and maintain healthy muscles is missing or nonfunctional because of a genetic change (mutation). In Duchenne muscular dystrophy the mutation is in dystrophin, a protein that is involved in the formation of the dystrophin–glycoprotein complex. This complex normally sits in the membranes that surround muscle fibers and protects these membranes from damage during muscle contraction. Consequently, in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the muscle fiber membranes become damaged and eventually the muscle fibers die. Thus, if functional dystrophin could be introduced into the muscles of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, it might be possible to reduce their symptoms and prolong their lives. Indeed, the effects of dystrophin deficiency in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse can be reduced by the introduction of an artificial gene that expresses dystrophin or the closely related protein utrophin. Unfortunately, this gene therapy approach has not yet been effectively demonstrated in humans. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether utrophin protein can be introduced directly into dystrophin-deficient mouse muscles by exposing the muscle cells to utrophin fused to the protein transduction domain of the HIV-1 TAT protein. Most proteins will not cross cell membranes, but proteins fused to this cell-penetrating domain readily enter many cell types, including muscle cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers injected full-length utrophin fused to the TAT protein transduction domain (TAT-Utr) and a short, “micro” version of utrophin fused to the same domain (TAT-μUtr) into the abdomens of mdx mice and looked to see where the proteins ended up. After two injections, both proteins were present in a wide range of tissues and organs, including several types of muscle. However, the levels of TAT-Utr were much lower than those of TAT-μUtr. Next, the researchers injected another group of mdx mice with TAT-μUtr six times over three weeks. Again, TAT-μUtr was present in all the tissues that the researchers examined. Furthermore, μUtr–glycoprotein complexes formed in the TAT-μUtr injected mdx mice and the membrane integrity and overall health of the dystrophin-deficient muscles of the mdx mice improved compared to mdx mice treated with saline. Finally, the researchers report, TAT-μUtr injections greatly improved the contractile performance of the muscles of the mdx mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first demonstration that injection of TAT-utrophin protein fusions may provide a way to treat muscular dystrophies caused by the loss of dystrophin. However, although this direct protein-replacement therapy looks hopeful, approaches that work in animals do not necessarily work in people. In particular, for this approach to work in patients with muscular dystrophy, it would be necessary to give frequent, high-dose injections of the TAT-μUtr fusion protein, a process that could eventually trigger a deleterious immune response. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that by combining this novel approach with other approaches that also increase utrophin expression, it might be possible to prevent or delay the development of the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on muscular dystrophy and ongoing research into possible treatments (in English and Spanish)
The US National Human Genome Research Institute also provides basic information on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and links to additional resources
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages for patients and caregivers on muscular dystrophy
The Nemours Foundation provides information about muscular dystrophy for parents, children, and teenagers
For links to further resources on muscular dystrophy, see also MedlinePlus
PMCID: PMC2680620  PMID: 19478831
22.  Distinction between Duchenne and other muscular dystrophies by ribosomal protein synthesis. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1975;12(1):49-54.
Ribosome concentration, ribosome distribution on sucrose density gradients, and in-vitro ribosomal amino-acid incorporation (noncollagen and collagen synthesis) were studied in muscle biopsy samples obtained from 30 patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, seven patients with Becker muscular dystrophy, and 10 with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Ribosome concentration was normal in Duchenne and facioscapulohumeral and decreased in Becker muscular dystrophy. Distribution of ribosomes in sucrose density gradients showed abnormalities (sharp monosomal peak and fewer polyribosomes) only in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and was normal in the other two types. In-vitro amino-acid incorporation of ribosomes in Duchenne muscular dystrophy revealed high collagen and low noncollagen synthesis of the heavy polyribosomes. This abnormality is controlled by an undetermined enzymatic factor belonging to the soluble enzyme fraction. Supplementation of the dystrophic heavy polyribosomes with normal soluble enzymes restored the synthesis of collagen to that of the controls. Heavy polyribosomes extracted from normals or from carriers produce proportionately more collagen in the presence of soluble enzyme fraction from Duchenne muscular dystrophy than in the presence of their homologous enzymes. In Becker muscular dystrophy, both noncollagen and collagen synthesis of the heavy polyribosomes were increased, under the influence of ribosomal factors. The different protein synthesis in Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies suggests that these conditions are non-allelic. In facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy the changes in protein synthesis occurred only in the early stage of the disease and consisted of increased noncollagen synthesis of the light polyribosomes, while the heavy polyribosomes had normal activity including collagen synthesis. This reaction was controlled by ribosomal factors.
PMCID: PMC1013230  PMID: 164552
23.  Mechanisms of Disease: congenital muscular dystrophies—glycosylation takes center stage 
Recent studies have defined a group of muscular dystrophies, now termed the dystroglycanopathies, as novel disorders of glycosylation. These conditions include Walker–Warburg syndrome, muscle–eye–brain disease, Fukuyama-type congenital muscular dystrophy, congenital muscular dystrophy types 1C and 1D, and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2I. Although clinical findings can be highly variable, dystroglycanopathies are all characterized by cortical malformations and ocular defects at the more severe end of the clinical spectrum, in addition to muscular dystrophy. All of these disorders are defined by the underglycosylation of α-dystroglycan. Defective glycosylation of dystroglycan severs the link between this important cell adhesion molecule and the extracellular matrix, thereby contributing to cellular pathology. Recent experiments indicate that glycosylation might not only define forms of muscular dystrophy but also provide an avenue to the development of therapies for these disorders.
PMCID: PMC2855642  PMID: 16932553
dystroglycan; glycosylation; laminin; lissencephaly; neuromuscular junction; skeletal muscle
24.  Muscular dystrophy in an X; 1 translocation female suggests that Duchenne locus is on X chromosome short arm. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1979;16(5):389-392.
A unique combination of a Duchenne-like muscular dystrophy in a girl with a translocation-inversion rearrangement involving an X chromosome and a no 1 chromosome appeared as a result of both gene mutation and chromosome mutation in the mother. The X-autosome rearrangement would permit full expression of an X-linked recessive gene, such as that for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, in a female, and this would satisfactorily explain the characteristic Duchenne-like course of our patient's illness. The simultaneous de novo appearance of the Duchenne mutation and the X;1 rearrange suggests possible sites for the Duchenne locus on the X chromosome short arm (at Xp1106 or Xp2107).
PMCID: PMC1012616  PMID: 513085
25.  Clinical and Pathological Characteristics of Four Korean Patients with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy type 2B 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2004;19(3):447-452.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B (LGMD2B), a subtype of autosomal recessive limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (ARLGMD), is characterized by a relatively late onset and slow progressive course. LGMD2B is known to be caused by the loss of the dysferlin protein at sarcolemma in muscle fibers. In this study, the clinical and pathological characteristics of Korean LGMD2B patients were investigated. Seventeen patients with ARLGMD underwent muscle biopsy and the histochemical examination was performed. For the immunocytochemistry, a set of antibodies against dystrophin, α, β, γ, δ-sarcoglycans, dysferlin, caveolin-3, and β-dystroglycan was used. Four patients (24%) showed selective loss of immunoreactivity against dysferlin at the sarcolemma on the muscle specimens. Therefore, they were classified into the LGMD2B category. The age at the onset of disease ranged from 9 yr to 33 yr, and none of the patients was wheelchair bound at the neurological examination. The serum creatine kinase (CK) was high in all the patients (4010-5310 IU/L). The pathologic examination showed mild to moderate dystrophic features. These are the first Korean LGMD2B cases with a dysferlin deficiency confirmed by immunocytochemistry. The clinical, pathological, and immunocytochemical findings of the patients with LGMD2B in this study were in accordance with those of other previous reports.
PMCID: PMC2816849  PMID: 15201514
Muscular Dystrophies; Dysferlin; Immunocytochemistry

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