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Could gene protect against muscle diseases?


Muscles

Researchers in Sweden have discovered a gene found in the eye muscles that may help in the treatment of a severe muscle wasting disease.


The study at Umeå University, along with Lund University, looked at zebrafish with muscular dystrophy (MD) – a group of genetic diseases that cause weakening and wasting of the muscles – and showed that a specific gene (fhl2b) may have a protective effect against the disease.


The only muscles that are known to not be affected by muscular dystrophy are those that control eye movements (even if they have the same genetic defect), and fhl2b is only found in the eye muscles.


When the researchers made the zebrafish, with a common MD type called Duchenne MD, overproduce the gene, they saw that the muscles were in better condition, became stronger and that the fish survived longer (MD can greatly reduce life expectancy). 


Jonas von Hofsten, at Umeå, said: “There is a long way to go before we arrive at new treatment methods. But the results mean that we have a clear track for further research on how we can use the specific gene and protein to slow down this painful disease progression.”


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