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U of I Study Tries Stem-Cell Approach On Muscular Dystrophy

A University of Illinois researcher is experimenting with stem cells as a potential treatment for a common form of muscular dystrophy affecting boys.

Victims of Duchenne muscular dystrophy rarely survive to middle age, and the immediate cause of death is often a weakened heart muscle. 

U of I Comparative Biosciences Professor Suzanne Berry-Miller and her research team worked with mice with a similar form of the disease, to see if stem cell therapy could be an effective treatment. She took adult stem cells derived from the blood vessels of healthy mice and transplanted them into the hearts of mice with the dystrophy. She says their heart function improved from the transformation into heart cells--of either the transplanted stem cells or stem cells already in the heart and triggered by the transplants.

It would take a great deal of additional research, but Berry-Miller says she hopes her finding can one day lead to future modes of treatment.

"What could be a potential care later would be isolating those cells from the patient,  and then genetically correcting those cells from the patient and giving them back or taking those kind of stem cells from the heart of a healthy donor and giving those to a patient," said Berry-Miller.

Berry-Miller’s research is published in the new issue of the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

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