Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Muscular Dystrophy Association


Pediatric neuromuscular disorders comprise a large variety of disorders that can be classified based on their neuroanatomical localization, patterns of weakness, and laboratory test results. Over the last decade, the field of translational research has been active with many ongoing clinical trials. This is particularly so in two common pediatric neuromuscular disorders: Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. Although no definitive therapy has yet been found, numerous active areas of research raise the potential for novel therapies in these two disorders, offering hope for improved quality of life and life expectancy for affected individuals.

Concepts: Medicine, Muscle, Muscle atrophy, Genetic disorders, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Human Development Index


OBJECTIVES:The purpose of this study was to assess health-related quality of life (QoL) in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), including development and field-testing of a DMD-specific module integrated with the core Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL).METHODS:The PedsQL 4.0 Generic Core and DMD Module Scales were completed by 203 families, including 200 parents and 117 boys with DMD. Scores on the PedsQL Core Scales were compared with those of matched healthy children. Relationships between PedsQL scores and patient characteristics were examined.RESULTS:By both parent report and child self-report, mean PedsQL scores for boys with DMD were significantly lower than those for healthy children for physical and psychosocial QoL (P < .0001), with significantly impaired psychosocial QoL scores self-reported by 57%. Psychosocial QoL, by self-report only, tended to be higher in the older boys (13-18 years) than in younger boys (8-12 years; P = .05) and was not significantly associated with use of mobility aids. Although parents reported higher Daily Activities scores in boys receiving steroids (P = .01), boys receiving steroids reported no difference in Daily Activities but significantly less worry (P = .004). Parent-child concordance was generally in the fair to poor range. Internal consistency reliability coefficients for PedsQL DMD module scales ranged from 0.66 to 0.86.CONCLUSIONS:Overall, boys with DMD reported significantly lower QoL than their healthy peers. Despite decreased physical functioning, older boys seem to perceive better psychosocial QoL than perceived by their parents and by younger boys, unrelated to their need for mobility aids.

Concepts: Quality, Electromyography, Genetic disorders, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Internal consistency, DJ Qualls


To review current approaches for obtaining patient data in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and consider how monitoring and comparing outcome measures across DMD clinics could facilitate standardized and improved patient care.

Concepts: Hospital, Electromyography, Genetic disorders, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association


Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive and lethal disease caused by mutations of the dystrophin gene. Currently no cure exists. Stem cell therapies targeting DMD are challenged by limited engraftment and rejection despite the use of immunosuppression. There is an urgent need to introduce new stem cell-based therapies that exhibit low allogenic profiles and improved cell engraftment. In this proof-of-concept study, we develop and test a new human stem cell-based approach to increase engraftment, limit rejection, and restore dystrophin expression in the mdx/scid mouse model of DMD. We introduce two Dystrophin Expressing Chimeric (DEC) cell lines created by ex vivo fusion of human myoblasts (MB) derived from two normal donors (MBN1/MBN2), and normal and DMD donors (MBN/MBDMD). The efficacy of fusion was confirmed by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy based on donor cell fluorescent labeling (PKH26/PKH67). In vitro, DEC displayed phenotype and genotype of donor parent cells, expressed dystrophin, and maintained proliferation and myogenic differentiation. In vivo, local delivery of both DEC lines (0.5 × 106) restored dystrophin expression (17.27%±8.05-MBN1/MBN2and 23.79%±3.82-MBN/MBDMD) which correlated with significant improvement of muscle force, contraction and tolerance to fatigue at 90 days after DEC transplant to the gastrocnemius muscles (GM) of dystrophin-deficient mdx/scid mice. This study establishes DEC as a potential therapy for DMD and other types of muscular dystrophies.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell biology, In vivo, In vitro, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association


Deficits in ambulatory function progress at heterogeneous rates among individuals with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The resulting inherent variability in ambulatory outcomes has complicated the design of drug efficacy trials and clouded the interpretation of trial results. We developed a prediction model for 1-year change in the six minute walk distance (6MWD) among DMD patients, and compared its predictive value to that of commonly used prognostic factors (age, baseline 6MWD, and steroid use).

Concepts: Electromyography, Efficacy, Genetic disorders, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Thought experiment, Elementary mathematics


High variability in patients' changes in 6 minute walk distance (6MWD) over time has complicated clinical trials of treatment efficacy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We assessed whether boys with DMD could be grouped into classes that shared similar ambulatory function trajectories as measured by 6MWD. Ambulatory boys aged 5 years or older with genetically confirmed DMD who were enrolled in a natural history study at 11 care centers throughout Italy were included. For each boy, standardized assessments of 6MWD were available at annual intervals spanning 3 years. Trajectories of 6MWD vs. age and trajectories of 6MWD vs. time from enrollment were examined using latent class analysis. A total of 96 boys were included. At enrollment, the mean age was 8.3 years (mean 6MWD: 374 meters). After accounting for age, baseline 6MWD, and steroid use, four latent trajectory classes were identified as explaining 3-year 6MWD outcomes significantly better than a single average trajectory. Patient trajectories of 6MWD change from enrollment were categorized as having fast decline (n = 25), moderate decline (n = 19), stable function (n = 37), and improving function (n = 15) during the 3-year follow-up. After accounting for trajectory classes, the standard deviation of variation in 6MWD was reduced by approximately 40%. The natural history of ambulatory function in DMD may be composed of distinct trajectory classes. The extent to which trajectories are associated with novel and established prognostic factors warrants further study. Reducing unexplained variation in patient outcomes could help to further improve DMD clinical trial design and analysis.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Patient, Arithmetic mean, Standard deviation, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Natural history


Identifying large expansions of short tandem repeats (STRs) such as those that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fragile X syndrome is challenging for short-read whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data. A solution to this problem is an important step towards integrating WGS into precision medicine. We have developed a software tool called ExpansionHunter that, using PCR-free WGS short-read data, can genotype repeats at the locus of interest, even if the expanded repeat is larger than the read length. We applied our algorithm to WGS data from 3,001 ALS patients who have been tested for the presence of the C9orf72 repeat expansion with repeat-primed PCR (RP-PCR). Compared against this truth data, ExpansionHunter correctly classified all (212/212, 95% CI [0.98, 1.00]) of the expanded samples as either expansions (208) or potential expansions (4). Additionally, 99.9% (2,786/2,789, 95% CI [0.997, 1.00]) of the wild type samples were correctly classified as wild type by this method with the remaining three samples identified as possible expansions. We further applied our algorithm to a set of 152 samples where every sample had one of eight different pathogenic repeat expansions including those associated with fragile X syndrome, Friedreich’s ataxia and Huntington’s disease and correctly flagged all but one of the known repeat expansions. Thus, ExpansionHunter can be used to accurately detect known pathogenic repeat expansions and provides researchers with a tool that can be used to identify new pathogenic repeat expansions. The software is licensed under GPL v3.0 and the source code is freely available on GitHub.

Concepts: Allele, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Computer program, Genetic disorders, Source code, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Trinucleotide repeat disorder, Minocycline


In prior open-label studies, eteplirsen, a phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO), enabled dystrophin production in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) with genetic mutations amenable to skipping exon 51. The present study used a double-blind placebo-controlled protocol to test eteplirsen’s ability to induce dystrophin production and improve distance walked on the 6-minute walk test (6MWT).

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Electromyography, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Dystrophin, Morpholino


Injured skeletal muscle regenerates, but with age or in muscular dystrophies, muscle is replaced by fat. Upon injury, muscle-resident fibro/adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) proliferated and gave rise to adipocytes. These FAPs dynamically produced primary cilia, structures that transduce intercellular cues such as Hedgehog (Hh) signals. Genetically removing cilia from FAPs inhibited intramuscular adipogenesis, both after injury and in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Blocking FAP ciliation also enhanced myofiber regeneration after injury and reduced myofiber size decline in the muscular dystrophy model. Hh signaling through FAP cilia regulated the expression of TIMP3, a secreted metalloproteinase inhibitor, that inhibited MMP14 to block adipogenesis. A pharmacological mimetic of TIMP3 blocked the conversion of FAPs into adipocytes, pointing to a strategy to combat fatty degeneration of skeletal muscle. We conclude that ciliary Hh signaling by FAPs orchestrates the regenerative response to skeletal muscle injury.

Concepts: Cardiac muscle, Glycogen, Myosin, Muscular system, Genetic disorders, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive muscle-wasting disorder. It is caused by loss-of-function mutations in the dystrophin gene. Currently, there is no cure. A highly promising therapeutic strategy is to replace or repair the defective dystrophin gene by gene therapy. Numerous animal models of DMD have been developed over the last 30 years, ranging from invertebrate to large mammalian models. mdx mice are the most commonly employed models in DMD research and have been used to lay the groundwork for DMD gene therapy. After ~30 years of development, the field has reached the stage at which the results in mdx mice can be validated and scaled-up in symptomatic large animals. The canine DMD (cDMD) model will be excellent for these studies. In this article, we review the animal models for DMD, the pros and cons of each model system, and the history and progress of preclinical DMD gene therapy research in the animal models. We also discuss the current and emerging challenges in this field and ways to address these challenges using animal models, in particular cDMD dogs.

Concepts: Gene, Mutation, Model organism, Model, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Dystrophin