In promising new research, stem cells worked remarkably well at easing symptoms of muscular dystrophy in dogs, an experiment that experts call a significant step toward treating people.
Sharon Hesterlee, vice president of translational research at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, called the result one of the most exciting she’s seen in her eight years with the organization. Her group helped pay for the work.
Two dogs that were severely disabled by the disease were able to walk faster and even jump after the treatments.
The cells helped strengthen muscle by fusing with regenerating muscle fibers and pumping out a protein that’s missing in dogs with the disease.
The study was published online Wednesday by the journal Nature. It used stem cells taken from the affected dogs or other dogs, rather than from embryos. For human use, the idea of using such “adult” stem cells from humans would avoid the controversial method of destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells.
Children with the disorder have trouble walking as early as preschool, and nearly all of them lose their ability to walk between ages 7 and 12. Typically, they die in their 20s because of weakness in their heart and lung muscles. There is no known cure.
The dog study was done by Giulio Cossu, director of the stem cell institute at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, with colleagues there and elsewhere.
On the Net:
Muscular Dystrophy Association: https://www.mda.org