A phase 1/2a follistatin gene therapy trial for becker muscular dystrophy

Mol Ther. 2015 Jan;23(1):192-201. doi: 10.1038/mt.2014.200. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) is a variant of dystrophin deficiency resulting from DMD gene mutations. Phenotype is variable with loss of ambulation in late teenage or late mid-life years. There is currently no treatment for this condition. In this BMD proof-of-principle clinical trial, a potent myostatin antagonist, follistatin (FS), was used to inhibit the myostatin pathway. Extensive preclinical studies, using adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver follistatin, demonstrated an increase in strength. For this trial, we used the alternatively spliced FS344 to avoid potential binding to off target sites. AAV1.CMV.FS344 was delivered to six BMD patients by direct bilateral intramuscular quadriceps injections. Cohort 1 included three subjects receiving 3 × 10(11) vg/kg/leg. The distance walked on the 6MWT was the primary outcome measure. Patients 01 and 02 improved 58 meters (m) and 125 m, respectively. Patient 03 showed no change. In Cohort 2, Patients 05 and 06 received 6 × 10(11) vg/kg/leg with improved 6MWT by 108 m and 29 m, whereas, Patient 04 showed no improvement. No adverse effects were encountered. Histological changes corroborated benefit showing reduced endomysial fibrosis, reduced central nucleation, more normal fiber size distribution with muscle hypertrophy, especially at high dose. The results are encouraging for treatment of dystrophin-deficient muscle diseases.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Dystrophin / deficiency*
  • Dystrophin / genetics
  • Follistatin-Related Proteins / genetics*
  • Follistatin-Related Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy*
  • Myostatin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Myostatin / genetics*
  • Myostatin / metabolism


  • DMD protein, human
  • Dystrophin
  • Follistatin-Related Proteins
  • MSTN protein, human
  • Myostatin