Around one in every 4,000 boys is born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a muscle wasting disease caused by an inherited genetic fault meaning they can't make a vital muscle protein called dystrophin. Right now there’s no cure, but one possible treatment involves boosting levels of a smaller muscle protein, utrophin, which can replace the missing dystrophin. To do this as effectively as possible, researchers are studying how utrophin levels are controlled in muscle cells. This is a slice through the calf muscle of a mouse with a faulty version of dystrophin, with different types of muscle fibres labelled red and green. These are the 'fast twitch' fibres, responsible for speed and strength, but they're abnormal in these animals. Although increasing utrophin isn't an effective treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy at the moment, understanding what's going on at a molecular level might lead to better utrophin-boosting therapies in the future.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.