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Curr Opin Neurol. 2002 Oct;15(5):563-9.

Experimental and therapeutic approaches to muscular dystrophies.

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  • 1Unité de Recherche en Génétique Humaine, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université Laval, CHUL du CHUQ, Québec, Canada.



Most patients suffering from muscular dystrophies can now obtain a precise diagnosis of their underlying molecular defect, but no efficient treatment to prevent disability and death. This review summarizes recent progress towards developing efficient treatments for these severe diseases.


Different levels of progress have been achieved in three main approaches: gene therapy, cell therapy and pharmacological therapy. Gene therapy has progressed by improving different vectors for gene delivery. Adenoviruses (mainly high capacity versions) and adeno-associated viruses were the most explored viral vectors. Progress was made in understanding the factors needed for an efficient transfection of muscle. An understanding of protein structure and function in muscular dystrophies has allowed elegant examples of protein engineering as a way of gene therapy. Non-viral vectors for gene transfer, targeted gene modification and transcription modulation have also been explored recently. Cell therapy (myogenic-cell transplantation) progressed in understanding myoblast transplantation in primates for human applications, evaluating protocols for the control of graft rejection, understanding the biology of donor myogenic cells, and searching for alternative sources of donor cells. Three clinical trials using pharmacological approaches (anabolic agents and gentamicin) show very poor or negative results. Other pharmacological approaches (upregulation of alternative therapeutic proteins) are still being researched in mice.


This panoply of experimental approaches covered all the current possibilities of attacking the problem of treating muscular dystrophies. It is expected that one or more will progress to provide efficient tools for the ultimate clinical goal: to prolong function and life in severe muscular dystrophy patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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