Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive, life-limiting muscle-wasting disease. Although no curative treatment is yet available, comprehensive multidisciplinary care has increased life expectancy significantly in recent decades. An international consensus care publication in 2010 outlined best-practice care, which includes corticosteroid treatment, respiratory, cardiac, orthopedic and rehabilitative interventions to address disease manifestations. While disease specialists are largely aware of these care standards, local physicians responsible for the day-to-day care of patients and families may be less familiar. To facilitate optimal care, a one-page document has been generated from published care recommendations, summarizing the key elements of comprehensive care for people living with DMD (“Imperatives for Duchenne muscular dystrophy). This document was developed through an international collaboration between Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), United Parent Projects Muscular Dystrophy (UPPMD) and TREAT-NMD.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a lethal, progressive, muscle-wasting disease caused by mutations in the DMD gene. Structural remodelling processes are responsible for muscle atrophy and replacement of myofibers by fibrotic and adipose tissues. Molecular interventions modulating catabolic pathways, such as the ubiquitin-proteasome and the autophagy-lysosome systems, are under development for Duchenne and other muscular dystrophies. The Akt signaling cascade is one of the main pathways involved in protein synthesis and autophagy repression and is known to be up-regulated in dystrophin null mdx mice.
We report that autophagy is triggered by fasting in the tibialis anterior muscle of control mice but not in mdx mice. Mdx mice show persistent Akt activation upon fasting and failure to increase the expression of FoxO3 regulated autophagy and atrophy genes, such as Bnip3 and Atrogin1. We also provide evidence that autophagy is differentially regulated in mdx tibialis anterior and diaphragm muscles.
Our data support the concept that autophagy is impaired in the tibialis anterior muscle of mdx mice and that the regulation of autophagy is muscle type dependent. Differences between muscle groups should be considered during the pre-clinical development of therapeutic strategies addressing muscle metabolism.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a muscle-wasting disease in which muscle is continuously damaged, resulting in loss of muscle tissue and function. Antisense-mediated exon skipping is a promising therapeutic approach for DMD. This method uses sequence specific antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) to reframe disrupted dystrophin transcripts. As AONs function in a sequence specific manner, human specific AONs cannot be tested in the mdx mouse, which carries a mutation in the murine Dmd gene. We have previously generated a mouse model carrying the complete human DMD gene (hDMD mouse) integrated in the mouse genome to overcome this problem. However, as this is not a disease model, it cannot be used to study the effect of AON treatment on protein level and muscle function.
Therefore, our long term goal is to generate deletions in the human DMD gene in a mouse carrying the hDMD gene in an mdx background. Towards this aim, we generated a male ES cell line carrying the hDMD gene while having the mdx point mutation. Inheritance of the hDMD gene by the ES cell was confirmed both on DNA and mRNA level. Quality control of the ES cells revealed that the pluripotency marker genes Oct-4 and Nanog are well expressed and that 85% of cells have 40 chromosomes. Germ line competence of this cell line has been confirmed, and 2 mice strains were derived from this cell line and crossed back on a C57BL6 background: hDMD/mdx and mdx(BL6).
Drug trials in children engage with many ethical issues, from drug-related safety concerns to communication with patients and parents, and recruitment and informed consent procedures. This paper addresses the field of neuromuscular disorders where the possibility of genetic, mutation-specific treatments, has added new complexity. Not only must trial design address issues of equity of access, but researchers must also think through the implications of adopting a personalised medicine approach, which requires a precise molecular diagnosis, in addition to other implications of developing orphan drugs.
It is against this background of change and complexity that the Project Ethics Council (PEC) was established within the TREAT-NMD EU Network of Excellence. The PEC is a high level advisory group that draws upon the expertise of its interdisciplinary membership which includes clinicians, lawyers, scientists, parents, representatives of patient organisations, social scientists and ethicists. In this paper we describe the establishment and terms of reference of the PEC, give an indication of the range and depth of its work and provide some analysis of the kinds of complex questions encountered. The paper describes how the PEC has responded to substantive ethical issues raised within the TREAT-NMD consortium and how it has provided a wider resource for any concerned parent, patient, or clinician to ask a question of ethical concern. Issues raised range from science related ethical issues, issues related to hereditary neuromuscular diseases and the new therapeutic approaches and questions concerning patients rights in the context of patient registries and bio-banks. We conclude by recommending the PEC as a model for similar research contexts in rare diseases.
The severe muscle wasting disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by genetic defects in the DMD gene, leading to a complete absence of dystrophin protein. Of the therapeutic approaches addressing the underlying genetic defect, exon skipping through antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) is the closest to clinical application. Several strategies to improve the efficiency of this approach are currently being investigated, such as the use of small chemical compounds that improve AONmediated exon skipping levels. Recently, enhanced exon skipping in combination with a guanine analogue, 6-thioguanine (6TG) was reported for phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO). Here the effect of 6TG on the exon skipping efficacy of 2’-O-methyl phosphorothioate RNA (2OMePS) and PMO AONs in vitro and in vivo was further evaluated, as well as the effect of 6TG by itself. Results confirm an increase of exon skipping levels in vitro, however, in contrast to the previous report, no effect was observed in vivo. Importantly, 6TG treatment in vitro resulted in numerous additional DMD exon skipping events. This, in combination with the known cytotoxic effects of 6TG after incorporation in DNA, warrants reconsidering of the use of 6TG as enhancer of AON efficiency in DMD, were chronic treatment will be required.