Gene Delivery to Skeletal Muscle

U. Washington researcher Jeff Chamberlain and team have found a way to engineer a non-reactive virus to carry the key dystrophin gene needed to hugely improve the condition of Duchenne muscular dystrophy sufferers. A faulty version of the gene causes the disease, which causes wasting of muscles. The ability to deliver the gene to the skeletal muscles – and nowhere else – and to avoid undesirable ‘side’ effects, is a major breakthrough. Though a long way from clinical trals – the demonstration was a mouse study, not human – this is thrilling news for those with muscular dystrophy and for their families.
Chilling news for clean track and field, though. The biochemistry of lactic acid buffering and elimination is fairly well-understood, and there are candidate genes identified that may determine our differering rates. When the genetic detective work is done – it will be – it’s inevitable that someone will use this to cheat. It will be extremely difficult to detect. There will be no markers in either blood or urine; even with a muscle biopsy it may not be possible to distinguish. Original research published in Nature Medicine (August 2004), reported in Science News (166:84). (8/19)

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