A preclinical study led by researchers at Children's National Medical Center has found that a new oral drug shows early promise for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The results, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, show that the drug, VBP15, decreases inflammation and protects and strengthens muscle without the harsh side effects linked to current treatments with glucocorticoids such as prednisone.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy results in severe muscle degeneration and affects approximately 180,000 patients worldwide, mostly children. The current standard treatment uses glucocorticoids, but is limited due to serious side effects leading to fragile bones and suppression of both the immune system and growth.
"These findings, while preliminary, are very promising for advancing the treatment of this disease, which causes disability in so many children worldwide," said Eric P. Hoffman, PhD, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children's National. "The study also suggests the potential for new strategies in very early treatment, which could further benefit patients."
The Children's National research team also observed that VBP15 inhibits the transcription factor NF-κB, a key cell-signaling molecule found in most cell types that plays a role in inflammation and tissue damage. The team previously found that NF-κB is active in dystrophin-deficient muscle years before the onset of symptoms, suggesting that very early treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients with VBP15 may prevent or delay the onset of some clinical symptoms.