Mononuclear cell analysis of muscle biopsies in prednisone-treated and untreated Duchenne muscular dystrophy. CIDD Study Group

Neurology. 1991 May;41(5):667-72. doi: 10.1212/wnl.41.5.667.


A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial has shown that prednisone improves strength in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. To determine whether immunosuppressant effects were important in mediating this improvement, we performed immunohistochemical analyses on muscle biopsies obtained at the conclusion of the trial. We studied 33 patients: 12 from the placebo group, nine from the low-dose prednisone group (0.75 mg/kg/d), and 12 from the high-dose group (1.5 mg/kg/d). There was a significant difference in total T cells (CD2+) between the placebo group and both treatment groups. Similarly, the number of CD8+ cytotoxic/suppressor T cells was significantly decreased in both treated groups compared with placebo. The number of muscle fibers focally invaded by lymphocytes was also significantly decreased in the two treated groups compared with controls. There were no differences between the low- and high-dose groups. The numbers of B cells, natural killer cells, CD4+ cells, macrophages, and necrotic muscle fibers were not significantly different in the treated and control groups. This study suggests that prednisone may improve strength in Duchenne muscular dystrophy through primarily immunologic mechanisms involving T lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / pathology*
  • Muscles / drug effects
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Muscular Dystrophies / drug therapy
  • Muscular Dystrophies / pathology*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Prednisone