Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) have used embryonic stem cells from mice to grow muscle cells. These same cells, injected into mice with a mild form of muscular dystrophy, formed healthy, functional muscle fibers at the site of deteriorating tissue. Scientists say that the research, while still in its early stages, could eventually lead to a cell-based therapy for patients with muscular dystrophy and other muscle-related diseases. The research was recently published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, about 250,000 people in the United States have some form of the disease. The most well known, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is caused by a genetic mutation that disrupts the formation of dystrophin, an important protein involved in the formation of muscle cells. In the absence of dystrophin, muscles are unable to regenerate, and they gradually weaken and waste away. Eventually, the deteriorated area is taken over by fat and connective tissue.