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Circ Res. 2008 Jan 4;102(1):121-30. Epub 2007 Oct 25.

Prevention of dystrophin-deficient cardiomyopathy in twenty-one-month-old carrier mice by mosaic dystrophin expression or complementary dystrophin/utrophin expression.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Missouri, School of Medicine, One Hospital Dr, M610G, MSB, Columbia, MO 65212, USA.


A cure for dystrophin-deficient muscular dystrophy requires treating both skeletal muscle and the heart. Whereas mosaic dystrophin expression has been shown to protect skeletal muscle, controversy exists over whether mosaic expression is protective in the heart. We have shown recently that mosaic dystrophin expression prevents stress-induced heart damage in young carrier mice. Although an interesting finding, the clinical relevance remains to be established because young dystrophin-null mdx mice do not have heart disease. On the other hand, heart failure has been reported in human carriers. To resolve this mouse/human discrepancy, we evaluated the cardiac phenotype in 21-month-old mdx, carrier, and normal mice. We found dilated cardiomyopathy in old mdx mice but not in age-matched carrier mice. All anatomical parameters and physiological assay results (ECG and closed-chest Millar catheter) were within the normal range in old carrier mice. Focal myocardial inflammation was found in a small fraction of old carrier mice, but it had no major impact on heart function. Dobutamine stress revealed a near normal hemodynamic profile except for a marginal reduction in systolic pressure in old carrier mice. Immunostaining and Western blot showed dystrophin expression in 50% cardiomyocytes in old carrier mice. Interestingly, utrophin was upregulated in dystrophin-negative heart cells in carrier mice. In summary, we have provided the first clear-cut evidence that dilated cardiomyopathy in old mdx mice was prevented by mosaic dystrophin expression or complementary dystrophin/utrophin expression. Our results raise the hope for ameliorating dystrophic cardiomyopathy through partial gene and/or cell therapy.

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