Advances in genetic therapeutic strategies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

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Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a lethal X-linked disorder caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. In the absence of the dystrophin protein, the link between the cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix is destroyed, and this severely compromises the strength, flexibility and stability of muscle fibres. The devastating consequence is progressive muscle wasting and premature death in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients. There is currently no cure, and despite exhaustive palliative care, patients are restricted to a wheelchair by the age of 12 years and usually succumb to cardiac or respiratory complications in their late 20s. This review provides an update on the current genetically based therapies and clinical trials that target or compensate for the primary defect of this disease. These include dystrophin gene-replacement strategies, genetic modification techniques to restore dystrophin expression, and modulation of the dystrophin homologue, utrophin, as a surrogate to re-establish muscle function.

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