A new muscular dystrophy treatment may be on the horizon thanks to new research being done at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada. The research has been published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences and was led by Dr. Julia von Maltzahn and Dr. Michael Rudnicki.
The research focused on a particular variant of muscular dystrophy called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is characterized by muscle weakness and fragility. Unfortunately for many patients, it turns fatal usually in the 20s or 30s. This is due to the fact that the muscles surrounding the lung deteriorate to the point that they can’t breathe anymore.
The Ottawa researchers used a procedure of injecting a human protein into a mouse model of DMD and found that the injections increased the size and strength of the muscle significantly. The protein is called Wnt7a. Previous research showed the affects of this protein on muscle. Now it appears to show significant promise in rebuilding muscle that is atrophied from DMD.
According to an Ottawa Hospital Research Institute press release, Dr. Rudnicki stated, “We know from our previous work that this protein, called Wnt7a, promotes the growth and repair of healthy muscle tissue. In this study we show the same types of improvement in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We found that Wnt7a injections increased muscle strength almost two-fold, to nearly normal levels. We also found that the size of the muscle fibre increased and there was less muscle damage, compared to mice not given Wnt7a.”
If this research proves itself in clinical human trials, there is a strong possibility that patients with muscular dystrophy may be able to receive regular injection, much like diabetics, to treat the disease. Fate Therapeutics is currently developing Wnt7a-based therapies and clinical trials are set to begin soon.