Gene editing restores dystrophin expression in a canine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

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Science  05 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6410, pp. 86-91
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1549

Gene editing and muscular dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by progressive muscle weakness and a shortened life span. The disease is caused by mutations that reduce or prevent expression of dystrophin, an essential structural protein in skeletal and heart muscle. The gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 can correct disease-causing mutations and has yielded promising results in mouse models of DMD. In a small, short-term study, Amoasii et al. tested this strategy in a dog model of DMD that exhibits many features of the human disease. Intramuscular or systemic delivery of the gene editing components resulted in a substantial increase in dystrophin protein levels in skeletal and heart muscle. Restoration of dystrophin expression was accompanied by improved muscle histology.

Science, this issue p. 86


Mutations in the gene encoding dystrophin, a protein that maintains muscle integrity and function, cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The deltaE50-MD dog model of DMD harbors a mutation corresponding to a mutational “hotspot” in the human DMD gene. We used adeno-associated viruses to deliver CRISPR gene editing components to four dogs and examined dystrophin protein expression 6 weeks after intramuscular delivery (n = 2) or 8 weeks after systemic delivery (n = 2). After systemic delivery in skeletal muscle, dystrophin was restored to levels ranging from 3 to 90% of normal, depending on muscle type. In cardiac muscle, dystrophin levels in the dog receiving the highest dose reached 92% of normal. The treated dogs also showed improved muscle histology. These large-animal data support the concept that, with further development, gene editing approaches may prove clinically useful for the treatment of DMD.

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