Stem Cell Research Brings New Hope for Muscular Dystrophy Treatment

by Quest Staff on June 11, 2009 - 5:00pm

A discovery that strengthens the body’s ability to repair muscle tissue could lead to new treatments for people with muscular dystrophy and other degenerative muscle diseases.

“This discovery shows us that by targeting stem cells to boost their numbers, we can improve the body’s ability to repair muscle tissue,” said Michael Rudnicki, scientific director of Canada’s Stem Cell Network, whose research was funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

The research shows that a protein called Wnt7a increases production of adult stem cells in muscle tissue, building tissue that leads to bigger, stronger muscles.  Rudnicki’s team introduced Wnt7a into mouse muscle tissue, increasing the population of satellite stem cells that fueled the muscle-building process. Researchers discovered that muscle tissue mass increased by almost 20 percent.

“This finding firmly identifies Wnt7a as a target for drug development for muscle disease,” said Sharon Hesterlee, SVP and Executive Director of MDA Venture Philanthropy. “The more we understand the ways in which muscle normally repairs itself, the more therapeutic options we will have.”

The findings are published in the June issue of Cell Stem Cell, the journal of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that causes progressive deterioration and wasting of muscles.

About MDA

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.

The Association's programs are funded almost entirely by individual private contributors.

For related story please see "WNT7a Protein Boosts Muscle Repair".

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