Genetic therapeutic approaches for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Helen Foster, Linda Popplewell, George Dickson
Human Gene Therapy 2012, 23 (7): 676-87
Despite an expansive wealth of research following the discovery of the DMD gene 25 years ago, there is still no curative treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, there are currently many promising lines of research, including cell-based therapies and pharmacological reagents to upregulate dystrophin via readthrough of nonsense mutations or by upregulation of the dystrophin homolog utrophin. Here we review genetic-based therapeutic strategies aimed at the amelioration of the DMD phenotype. These include the reintroduction of a copy of the DMD gene into an affected tissue by means of a viral vector; correction of the mutated DMD transcript by antisense oligonucleotide-induced exon skipping to restore the open reading frame; and direct modification of the DMD gene at a chromosomal level through genome editing. All these approaches are discussed in terms of the more recent advances, and the hurdles to be overcome if a comprehensive and effective treatment for DMD is to be found. These hurdles include the need to target all musculature of the body. Therefore any potential treatment would need to be administered systemically. In addition, any treatment needs to have a long-term effect, with the possibility of readministration, while avoiding any potentially detrimental immune response to the vector or transgene.

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