Posts Tagged ‘muscular dystrophy’

“No pain, no gain.” So say those working out to build up their muscles, and on a cellular level it is a pretty accurate description of how muscle mass increases. Exercise causes tears in muscle membrane and the healing process produces an increased amount of healthy muscle. Implicit in this scenario is the notion that muscle repair is an efficient and ongoing process in healthy individuals. However, the repair process is not well understood. New University of Iowa research into two types of muscular dystrophy now has opened the door on a muscle repair process and identified a protein that plays a critical role.

The protein, called dysferlin, is mutated in two distinct muscular dystrophies known as Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b. The UI study suggests that in these diseases, the characteristic, progressive muscle degeneration is due to a faulty muscle-repair mechanism rather than an inherent weakness in the muscle’s structural integrity. The research findings reveal a totally new cellular cause of muscular dystrophy and may lead to many discoveries about normal muscle function and to therapies for muscle disorders.

The research team led by Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair of Physiology and Biophysics and interim head of the department, UI professor of neurology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, studied the molecular consequences of losing dysferlin and discovered that without dysferlin muscles were unable to heal themselves.

The UI team genetically engineered mice to lack the dysferlin gene. Just like humans with Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b, the mice developed a muscular dystrophy, which gets progressively worse with age. However, treadmill tests revealed that the muscles of mice that lack dysferlin were not much more susceptible to damage than the muscles of normal mice. This contrasts with most muscular dystrophies of known cause where genetic mutations weaken muscle membranes and make muscles more prone to damage.

“This told us that the dystrophies caused by dysferlin loss were very different in terms of how the disease process works compared to other dystrophies we have studied,” Campbell said. “We were gradually picking up clues that showed we had a different type of muscular dystrophy here.”

Most muscular dystrophy causing genetic mutations have been linked to disruption of a large protein complex that controls the structural integrity of muscle cells. The researchers found that dysferlin was not associated with this large protein complex. Rather, dysferlin is normally found throughout muscle plasma membrane and also in vesicles, which are small membrane bubbles that encapsulate important cellular substances and ferry them around cells. Vesicles also are important for moving membrane around in cells.

Previous studies have shown that resealing cell membranes requires the accumulation and fusing of vesicles to repair the damaged site.

Using an electron microscope to examine muscles lacking dysferlin, the UI team found that although vesicles gathered at damaged membrane sites, the membrane was not resealed. In contrast, the team discovered that when normal muscle is injured, visible “patches” form at the damaged sites, which seal the holes in the membrane. Chemicals that tag dysferlin proved that these “patches” were enriched with dysferlin and the patches appeared to be formed by the fusion of dysferlin-containing vesicles that traveled though the cell to the site of membrane damage.

The researchers then used a high-powered laser and a special dye to visualize the repair process in real time.

Under normal conditions, the dye is unable to penetrate muscle membrane. However, if the membrane is broken the dye can enter the muscle fiber where it fluoresces. Using the laser to damage a specific area of muscle membrane, the researchers could watch the fluorescence increase as the dye flowed into the muscle fiber.

“The more dye that entered, the more fluorescence we saw,” Campbell explained. “However, once the membrane was repaired, no more dye could enter and the level of fluorescence remained steady. Measuring the increase in fluorescence let us measure the amount of time that the membrane stayed open before repair sealed the membrane and prevented any more dye from entering.”

In the presence of calcium, normal membrane repaired itself in about a minute. In the absence of calcium, vesicles gathered at the damaged muscle membrane, but they did not fuse with each other or with the membrane and the membrane was not repaired. In muscle that lacked dysferlin, even in the presence of calcium, the damaged site was not repaired.

Campbell speculated that dysferlin, which contains calcium-binding regions, may be acting as a calcium sensor and that the repair system needs to sense the calcium in order to initiate the fusion and patching of the hole. Campbell added that purifying the protein and testing its properties should help pin down its role in the repair process.

The discovery of a muscle repair process and of dysferlin’s role raises many new questions. In particular, Campbell wonders what other proteins might be involved and whether defects in those components could be the cause of other muscular dystrophies.

“This work has described a new physiological mechanism in muscle and identified a component of this repair process,” Campbell said. “What is really exciting for me is the feeling that this is just a little hint of a much bigger picture.”

In addition to Campbell, the UI researchers included Dimple Bansal, a graduate student in Campbell’s laboratory and the lead author of the paper, Severine Groh, Ph.D., and Chien-Chang Chen, Ph.D., both UI post-doctoral researchers in physiology and biophysics and neurology, and Roger Williamson, M.D., UI professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Also part of the research team were Katsuya Miyake, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher, and Paul McNeil, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology and anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga., and Steven Vogel, Ph.D., at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Md.

———————————–
Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
———————————–

Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa 

The study was funded by a grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.

Advertisements

Scientists may soon be able to influence muscle formation more easily as a result of research conducted in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases’ Laboratory of Muscle Biology. The researchers there and at institutions in California and Italy have found that inhibitors of the enzyme deacetylase can switch the pathway of muscle precursor cells (myoblasts) from simply reproducing themselves to becoming mature cells that form muscle fibers (myotubules).

It has been known for some time that deacetylase prevents the skeletal muscle gene from being expressed, which inhibits myoblasts from forming muscle. The research team has found that under certain conditions, deacetylase inhibitors (DIs) in myoblasts enhance muscle gene expression and muscle fiber formation.

Knowledge of how DIs act against deacetylase is providing important insights on potential ways to correct problems that occur during embryonic muscle development. This research may also lead to methods to induce muscle growth, regeneration and repair in adults.

Simona Iezzi, Ph.D., and Vittorio Sartorelli, M.D., in the NIAMS Muscle Gene Expression Group, along with Pier Lorenzo Puri, M.D., at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and other investigators at the University of Rome, exposed human and mouse myoblasts to DIs while they were dividing or after placement in a medium that stimulates myoblasts to become muscle cells. The researchers found that exposing dividing human and mouse myoblasts to a DI increased the levels of muscle proteins and led to a dramatic increase in the formation of muscle fibers. Similar experiments were done in developing mouse embryos, resulting in an increased number of somites (the regions of the embryo from which muscle cells are derived) and augmented expression of muscle genes.

Dr. Sartorelli’s group continues to investigate how the myoblasts are stimulated to fuse into myotubules. One theory is that the performance of poorly differentiated myoblasts is enhanced when they are recruited by cells with a good capacity to differentiate. Further research will be directed at discovering whether the cells that have been induced to form muscle will restore muscle function when transplanted into a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. In addition, the researchers at the NIAMS Muscle Gene Expression Group plan to expose adult muscle stem cells from a mouse model to DIs to understand their biology and their potential use as therapeutic tools.

———————————–
Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
———————————–

Contact: Judith Wortman
NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Iezzi S, Cossu G, Nervi C, Sartorelli V, Puri P. Stage-specific modulation of skeletal myogenesis by inhibitors of nuclear deacetylases. PNAS 2002;99(11):7757-7762.

 

Researchers in Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered genetic and drug-treatment methods to arrest the type of muscle atrophy often caused by muscle disuse, as well as aging and diseases such as cancer.
The findings might eventually benefit people who have been injured or suffer from diseases that cause them to be bedridden and lose muscle mass, or sometimes limbs, due to atrophy, said Amber Pond, a research scientist in the school’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences.
“The weight loss and muscle wasting that occurs in patients with cancer or other diseases seriously compromises their well-being and is correlated with a poor chance for recovery,” Pond said. “In addition, muscle weakness caused by atrophy during aging can lead to serious falls and bone loss. Exercise is the most beneficial strategy to treat atrophy. However, many individuals are too ill to adequately participate in exercise programs.
“We’ve found a chemical ‘switch’ in the body that allows us to turn atrophy on, and, from that, we also have learned how to turn atrophy off.”
Findings based on the research, funded in large part by the American Heart Association, are detailed in a study available online today (Wednesday, May 24) in The FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study will be in the journal’s print edition in July.
The research team found atrophy of skeletal muscle in mice could be inhibited with both gene therapy and drug treatment using astemizole (as-TEM-uh-zole), an antihistamine. This new insight has potential in many different areas of research, Pond said.
“We have discovered a direct link between atrophy and a protein in the skeletal muscle,” Pond said. “This led us to develop methods that would block the protein’s ability to cause atrophy. Through drug treatment, we were able to block atrophy, allowing muscle to retain 97 percent of its original fiber size in the face of atrophy.”
Astemizole, which was withdrawn from the market in 2000 because of its potential to cause serious cardiovascular problems, wouldn’t be suitable for use in humans, Pond said. The drug can be used in mice because it doesn’t affect their hearts to the same extent.
“Astemizole administration to humans poses too great a risk,” Pond said. “There’s a need for more study to avoid those side effects, but the key is that we found a protein capable of sensing muscle disuse and initiating atrophy.”
In the drug study, researchers used four groups of mice: a control group, a second group that was given astemizole, and two additional groups in which muscle atrophy was introduced. One of these two groups received astemizole while the second did not. Both of these groups were placed in cages constructed to elevate them so that they were unable to place any weight on their back legs.
“Use of the custom cages to produce atrophy was established in the ’80s for simulation of NASA space flight; you can’t mimic these effects on muscle and bone in cell culture,” said Kevin Hannon, associate professor of developmental anatomy and one of the study’s authors. “The mice were able to move around the cage and eat and drink on their own. We monitored their food and water intake and overall health and ensured that they were playing and eating normally.”
This method allowed the scientists to demonstrate the effects of skeletal muscle atrophy and investigate reasons for the link with the Merg1a protein. The Merg1a protein is a channel that normally passes a small electrical current across the cell.
The researchers implanted a gene into the skeletal muscle that resulted in a mutant form of this protein that combines with the normal protein and stops the current. The researchers found that the mutant protein would inhibit atrophy in mice whose ability to use their back legs was limited.
Because gene therapy is not yet a practical treatment option in humans, the researchers decided to go a step further and stop the function of the protein with astemizole, which is a known “Merg1a channel blocker.” The researchers found that the drug produced basically the same results as the gene therapy. In fact, muscle size increased in mice in the group that were given the drug without any other treatment.
“We are now looking at the differences in the structure of the heart and the skeleton to give us clues on how to specifically target muscles without the cardiac side effects,” Pond said.
###
This research also was partially supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue’s basic medical sciences department.
Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, maggiemorris@purdue.edu
Sources: Amber Pond, (765) 494-6185, pond@purdue.edu 
Kevin Hannon, (765) 494-5949, hannonk@purdue.edu
Related Web sites: 
Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine: http://www.vet.purdue.edu/ 

Researchers in Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered genetic and drug-treatment methods to arrest the type of muscle atrophy often caused by muscle disuse, as well as aging and diseases such as cancer.

The findings might eventually benefit people who have been injured or suffer from diseases that cause them to be bedridden and lose muscle mass, or sometimes limbs, due to atrophy, said Amber Pond, a research scientist in the school’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences.

“The weight loss and muscle wasting that occurs in patients with cancer or other diseases seriously compromises their well-being and is correlated with a poor chance for recovery,” Pond said. “In addition, muscle weakness caused by atrophy during aging can lead to serious falls and bone loss. Exercise is the most beneficial strategy to treat atrophy. However, many individuals are too ill to adequately participate in exercise programs.

“We’ve found a chemical ‘switch’ in the body that allows us to turn atrophy on, and, from that, we also have learned how to turn atrophy off.”

Findings based on the research, funded in large part by the American Heart Association, are detailed in a study available online today (Wednesday, May 24) in The FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study will be in the journal’s print edition in July.

The research team found atrophy of skeletal muscle in mice could be inhibited with both gene therapy and drug treatment using astemizole (as-TEM-uh-zole), an antihistamine. This new insight has potential in many different areas of research, Pond said.

“We have discovered a direct link between atrophy and a protein in the skeletal muscle,” Pond said. “This led us to develop methods that would block the protein’s ability to cause atrophy. Through drug treatment, we were able to block atrophy, allowing muscle to retain 97 percent of its original fiber size in the face of atrophy.”

Astemizole, which was withdrawn from the market in 2000 because of its potential to cause serious cardiovascular problems, wouldn’t be suitable for use in humans, Pond said. The drug can be used in mice because it doesn’t affect their hearts to the same extent.

“Astemizole administration to humans poses too great a risk,” Pond said. “There’s a need for more study to avoid those side effects, but the key is that we found a protein capable of sensing muscle disuse and initiating atrophy.”

In the drug study, researchers used four groups of mice: a control group, a second group that was given astemizole, and two additional groups in which muscle atrophy was introduced. One of these two groups received astemizole while the second did not. Both of these groups were placed in cages constructed to elevate them so that they were unable to place any weight on their back legs.

“Use of the custom cages to produce atrophy was established in the ’80s for simulation of NASA space flight; you can’t mimic these effects on muscle and bone in cell culture,” said Kevin Hannon, associate professor of developmental anatomy and one of the study’s authors. “The mice were able to move around the cage and eat and drink on their own. We monitored their food and water intake and overall health and ensured that they were playing and eating normally.”

This method allowed the scientists to demonstrate the effects of skeletal muscle atrophy and investigate reasons for the link with the Merg1a protein. The Merg1a protein is a channel that normally passes a small electrical current across the cell.

The researchers implanted a gene into the skeletal muscle that resulted in a mutant form of this protein that combines with the normal protein and stops the current. The researchers found that the mutant protein would inhibit atrophy in mice whose ability to use their back legs was limited.

Because gene therapy is not yet a practical treatment option in humans, the researchers decided to go a step further and stop the function of the protein with astemizole, which is a known “Merg1a channel blocker.” The researchers found that the drug produced basically the same results as the gene therapy. In fact, muscle size increased in mice in the group that were given the drug without any other treatment.

“We are now looking at the differences in the structure of the heart and the skeleton to give us clues on how to specifically target muscles without the cardiac side effects,” Pond said.

———————————–
Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
———————————–

Contact: Maggie Morris
Purdue University 

This research also was partially supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue’s basic medical sciences department.

Related Web sites: 
Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine: http://www.vet.purdue.edu/ 
FASEB Journal: http://www.fasebj.org/ 

Scientists have discovered that a group of chemicals known as Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors stimulate growth and regeneration of adult skeletal muscle cells by increasing expression of the protein follistatin. The research, published in the May issue of Developmental Cell, may provide new avenues for developing effective means to promote regeneration in muscular dystrophies.

Dr. Vittorio Sartorelli from the Muscle Gene Expression Group in the Laboratory of Muscle Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues at the Salk Institute and the Dulbecco Telethon Institute in Rome report that HDAC inhibitors, which stimulate the formation of mature muscle cells from immature precursor cells, also cause a significant elevation of follistatin levels. When follistatin levels are reduced, then HDAC inhibitors no longer stimulate adult muscle growth. The regeneration activities of the HDAC inhibitors appear to function only in skeletal muscle, since follistatin is not stimulated in other cell types tested. In animal studies, administration of an HDAC inhibitor produced clear signs of muscle regeneration in regions of injured skeletal muscle tissues.

“Our findings establish for the first time that follistatin promotes the recruitment and fusion of immature muscle cells to pre-existing adult muscle fibers. These results suggest that follistatin is a promising target for future drug development of muscle regeneration. HDAC inhibitors, by stimulating follistatin, could well be pharmacologically useful as stimulants of muscle regeneration. We are investigating whether these inhibitors are a viable treatment to regenerate healthy new muscle tissues in animal models of muscular dystrophies,” explains Dr. Sartorelli. The functional link between HDAC inhibitors, follistatin, and adult muscle regeneration is especially provocative as an HDAC inhibitor is already being used clinically in humans as an anti-cancer therapeutic.

———————————–
Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
———————————–

Contact: Heidi Hardman
Cell Press 

Simona Iezzi, Monica Di Padova, Carlo Serra, Giuseppina Caretti, Cristiano Simone, Eric Maklan, Giulia Minetti, Po Zhao, Eric P. Hoffman, Pier Lorenzo Puri, and Vittorio Sartorelli: “Deacetylase Inhibitors Increase Muscle Cell Size by Promoting Myoblast Recruitment and Fusion through Induction of Follistatin”

 

Investigators in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have identified the role of a protein that could potentially lead to new clinical treatments to combat musculoskeletal diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Results of these studies appear in the March 11, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These studies, led by Brian Kaspar, PhD, a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University, focus on a protein called follistatin (FS). Using a single injection, gene-delivery strategy involving FS, investigators treated the hind leg muscles of mice. Results showed increased muscle size and strength, quadruple that of mice treated with proteins other than FS. The muscle enhancements were shown to be well-tolerated for more than two years.

According to Dr. Kaspar, increased muscle mass and strength were also evident when this strategy was tested using a model of DMD. Apart from the injected hind leg muscles, strengthening effects were also shown in the triceps. In addition, fibrosis, abnormal formation of scar tissue and a hallmark of muscular dystrophy, was decreased in FS-treated animals.

“We believe this new FS strategy may be more powerful than other strategies due to its additional effects, including its ability to reduce inflammation,” said Dr. Kaspar.

The strategy showed no negative effects on the heart or reproductive ability of either males or females. The results were also replicated in older animals, suggesting that this strategy could be useful in developing clinical treatments for older DMD patients.

“This research provides evidence of multiple potential treatment applications for muscle diseases including, but not limited to, muscular dystrophy,” said Jerry Mendell, MD, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute, a co-author on the study, and professor of Pediatrics in Neurology and Pathology at The Ohio State University. “These results offer promise for treatment of potentially any muscle-wasting disease, including muscle weakness due to other illnesses, aging, and inflammatory diseases such as polymyositis. Our next step is to pursue clinical trials.”

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a patent pending on the FS technique due to the major role it may play for muscular dystrophy treatment and other muscle-wasting diseases.

———————————–
Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
———————————–

Contact: Pam Barber/Mary Ellen Fiorino
Nationwide Children’s Hospital

By studying the genes of a German child born with unusually well developed muscles, an international research team has discovered the first evidence that the gene whose loss makes “mighty mice” also controls muscle growth in people.

Writing in the June 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, German neurologist Markus Schuelke, M.D., and the team show that the child’s extra-large muscles are due to an inherited mutation that effectively silences the myostatin gene, proving that its protein normally keeps muscle development in check in people.

People with muscle-wasting conditions such as muscular dystrophy, and others just wanting to “bulk up,” have eagerly followed work on myostatin, hoping for a way to counteract the protein’s effects in order to build or rebuild muscle mass. But while research with mice has continued to reveal myostatin’s role and the effects of interfering with it, no one knew whether any of the results would be relevant to humans.

“This is the first evidence that myostatin regulates muscle mass in people as it does in other animals,” says Se-Jin Lee, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics in the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at Johns Hopkins and co-author on the study. “That gives us a great deal of hope that agents already known to block myostatin activity in mice may be able to increase muscle mass in humans, too.”

Lee and his team discovered in 1997 that knocking out the myostatin gene led to mice that were twice as muscular as their normal siblings, lending them the moniker “mighty mice.” Later, others showed that naturally bulky cattle, such as Belgian Blues, got their extra muscles from lack of myostatin, too.

An unusual opportunity to examine myostatin’s role in humans arose when Schuelke examined a newborn baby boy, almost five years ago, and was struck by the visible muscles on the infant’s upper legs and upper arms. When ultrasound proved that the muscles were roughly twice as large as other infants’, but otherwise normal, Schuelke realized that a naturally occurring mutation in the child’s myostatin gene might be the cause.

Sequencing the myostatin gene from the boy and his mother, who had been a professional athlete, revealed a single change in the building blocks of the gene’s DNA. Surprisingly, the change was not in the gene regions that correspond to the resulting protein, but in the intervening regions that are used only to create protein-making instructions, thus changing the gene’s protein-building message.

“The mutation caused the gene’s message, the messenger RNA, to be wrong,” says Hopkins

neurologist Kathryn Wagner, M.D., Ph.D., who tested the genetic mutation’s effect in laboratory studies. “If the message had been used to make a protein, it would be much shorter than it should be. But we think the process doesn’t even get that far; instead the cells just destroy the message.”

Co-authors from Wyeth Research, Cambridge, Mass., analyzed samples of the child’s blood for evidence of the myostatin protein and found none. “Both copies of the child’s myostatin gene have this mutation, so little if any of the myostatin protein is made,” says Schuelke. “As a result, he has about twice the muscle mass of other children.”

Completely lacking myostatin, the boy is stronger than other children his age, and fortunately has no signs of problems with his heart so far, Schuelke says. But he adds that it’s impossible to know whether the lack of myostatin in that crucial muscle might lead to problems as the boy gets older.

While other family members — the boy’s mother and her brother, father and grandfather — were also reported to have been usually strong, only the mother’s DNA was available for analysis along with her son’s. Schuelke discovered that only one copy of the mother’s myostatin gene had the mutation found in both copies of her son’s myostatin gene. (We have two copies of each gene; one inherited from the mother and one inherited from the father.)

—————————-
Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
—————————-

 Contact: Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

 

The Johns Hopkins researchers were funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The German researchers were funded by the parents’ self-help group (Helft dem muskelkranken Kind).

Authors on the paper are Schuekle, Christoph Hubner, Thomas Riebel and Wolfgang Komen of Charite, University Medical Center Berlin, Germany; Wagner and Lee of Johns Hopkins; Leslie Stolz and James Tobin of Wyeth Research, Cambridge, Ma.; and Thomas Braun of Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.

*Under a licensing agreement between MetaMorphix Inc. and The Johns Hopkins University, Lee is entitled to a share of royalty received by the University on sales of products described in this article. Lee also is entitled to a share of sublicensing income from arrangements between MetaMorphix and American Home Products (Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories) and Cape Aquaculture Technologies. Lee and the University own MetaMorphix Inc. stock, which is subject to certain restrictions under University policy. Lee owns Cape Aquaculture Technologies stock, which is subject to certain restrictions under University policy. Lee has served as a paid consultant to MetaMorphix Inc. The terms of these arrangements are being managed by The Johns Hopkins University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.

The Johns Hopkins scientists who first created “mighty mice” have developed, with pharmaceutical company Wyeth and the biotechnology firm MetaMorphix, an agent that’s more effective at increasing muscle mass in mice than a related potential treatment for muscular dystrophy now in clinical trials.

The new agent is a version of a cellular docking point for the muscle-limiting protein myostatin. In mice, just two weekly injections of the new agent triggered a 60 percent increase in muscle size, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published and available publicly through the journal’s website.

The researchers’ original mighty mice, created by knocking out the gene that codes for myostatin, grew muscles twice as big as normal mice. An antibody against myostatin now in clinical trials caused mice to develop muscles 25 percent larger than those of untreated mice after five weeks or more of treatment.

The researchers’ expectation is that blocking myostatin might help maintain critical muscle strength in people whose muscles are wasting due to diseases like muscular dystrophy or side effects from cancer treatment or AIDS.

“This new inhibitor of myostatin, known as ACVR2B, is very potent and gives very dramatic effects in the mice,” says Se-Jin Lee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology and genetics in Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. “Its effects were larger and faster than we’ve seen with any other agent, and they were even larger than we expected.”

ACVR2B is the business end of a cellular docking point for the myostatin protein, and it probably works in part by mopping up myostatin so it can’t exert its muscle-inhibiting influence. But the researchers’ experiments also show that the new agent’s extra potency stems from its ability to block more than just myostatin, says Lee.

“We don’t know how many other muscle-limiting proteins there may be or which ones they are,” says Lee, “but these experiments clearly show that myostatin is not the whole story.”

The evidence for other players came from experiments with mighty mice themselves. Because these mice don’t have any myostatin, any effects of injecting the new agent would come from its effects on other proteins, explains Lee. After five injections over four weeks, mighty mice injected with the new agent had muscles 24 percent larger than their counterparts that didn’t get the new agent.

“In some ways this was supposed to be a control experiment,” says Lee. “We weren’t really expecting to see an effect, let alone an effect that sizeable.”

In other experiments with normal female mice, weekly injections of the new agent provided the biggest effect on muscle growth after just two weeks at the highest dose given (50 milligrams per kilogram mouse weight). Depending on the muscle group analyzed, the treated mice’s muscles were bigger than untreated mice by 39 percent (the gastrocnemius [calf] muscle) to 61 percent (the triceps).

After just one week, mice given a fifth of that highest dose had muscles 16 percent to 25 percent bigger than untreated mice, depending on the muscle group analyzed, and mice treated with one injection a week for two, three or four weeks continued to gain muscle mass.

But although the new agent seems quite promising, its advantage in potency also requires extra caution. “We don’t know what else the new agent is affecting or whether those effects will turn out to be entirely beneficial,” says Lee.

Lee says they also are conducting experiments with the mice now to see whether the effect lasts after injections cease and whether it helps a mouse model of muscular dystrophy retain enough muscle strength to prolong life.

 —————————-
Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
—————————-

Contact: Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

The research was funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Cancer Institute and by funds from Wyeth Research and MetaMorphix Inc. The new agent was produced and first tested at Wyeth, and the inhibitor used in the current mouse studies was produced at MetaMorphix. All of the mouse studies described in this article and in the PNAS paper were conducted in Lee’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins.

Authors on the report are Se-Jin Lee and Suzanne Sebald of Johns Hopkins; Lori Reed of Wyeth Exploratory Drug Safety, and Monique Davies, Stefan Girgenrath, Mary Goad, Kathy Tomkinson, Jill Wright and Neil Wolfman of Wyeth Discovery Research; Christopher Barker, Gregory Ehrmantraut, James Holmstrom and Betty Trowell of MetaMorphix Canada; Barry Gertz, Man-Shiow Jiang, Li-fang Liang, Edwin Quattlebaum and Ronald Stotish of MetaMorphix, Beltsville, Md.; Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine; and En Li of Harvard Medical School.

Myostatin was licensed by The Johns Hopkins University to MetaMorphix and sublicensed to Wyeth. Lee is entitled to a share of sales royalty received by The Johns Hopkins University from sales of this factor. The Johns Hopkins University and Lee also own MetaMorphix stock, which is subject to certain restrictions under university policy. Lee is a paid consultant to MetaMorphix. The terms of these arrangements are being managed by the university in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.

On the Web: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0505996102v1