Possible Help for Muscle Diseases

6:22 PM EST; September 23, 1999; Boston, MA (AP) -- Bone marrow transplants could restore strength to patients with Muscular Dystrophy and other muscle-wasting diseases, researchers said. Researchers at Children's Hospital who infused Muscular Dystrophy-weakened mice with bone marrow stem cells taken from healthy mice found that the cells generated healthy muscle cells.

Those healthy cells then traveled through the blood stream and, to some extent, restored the mice's ravaged skeletal muscles, according to lead researchers Richard Mulligan and Louis Kunkel of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The findings are important because adults may have a reservoir of these cells in their bodies that have the potential to generate other types of cells, said Emanuela Gussoni, a biologist in Kunkel's lab and lead author of the paper in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. In a related experiment, Gussoni and her colleagues isolated muscle stem cells from mice and demonstrated they could generate adult muscle cells as well as bone marrow cells.

Dr. Leon Charash, chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said the findings were "exciting." "This work may eventually lead to an unanticipated treatment approach for all the muscles ravaged by neuromuscular disease," he said.