New developments in exon skipping and splice modulation therapies for neuromuscular diseases

Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2014 Jun;14(6):809-19. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2014.896335. Epub 2014 Mar 12.


Introduction: Antisense oligonucleotide (AON) therapy is a form of treatment for genetic or infectious diseases using small, synthetic DNA-like molecules called AONs. Recent advances in the development of AONs that show improved stability and increased sequence specificity have led to clinical trials for several neuromuscular diseases. Impressive preclinical and clinical data are published regarding the usage of AONs in exon-skipping and splice modulation strategies to increase dystrophin production in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and survival of motor neuron (SMN) production in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

Areas covered: In this review, we focus on the current progress and challenges of exon-skipping and splice modulation therapies. In addition, we discuss the recent failure of the Phase III clinical trials of exon 51 skipping (drisapersen) for DMD.

Expert opinion: The main approach of AON therapy in DMD and SMA is to rescue ('knock up' or increase) target proteins through exon skipping or exon inclusion; conversely, most conventional antisense drugs are designed to knock down (inhibit) the target. Encouraging preclinical data using this 'knock up' approach are also reported to rescue dysferlinopathies, including limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B, Miyoshi myopathy, distal myopathy with anterior tibial onset and Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy.

Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy; Miyoshi myopathy; antisense therapy; dysferlinopathy; exon skipping; limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2B; spinal muscular atrophy; splice modulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exons*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / therapy*
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / physiopathology
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / therapy*
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / physiopathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use*
  • RNA Splicing*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walker-Warburg Syndrome / genetics
  • Walker-Warburg Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Walker-Warburg Syndrome / therapy*


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense

Supplementary concepts

  • Dysferlinopathy