Over the past decade different stem cell (SC) based approaches were tested to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a lethal X-linked disorder caused by mutations in dystrophin gene. Despite research efforts, there is no curative therapy for DMD. Allogeneic SC therapies aim to restore dystrophin in the affected muscles; however, they are challenged by rejection and limited engraftment. Thus, there is a need to develop new more efficacious SC therapies. Chimeric Cells (CC), created via ex vivo fusion of donor and recipient cells, represent a promising therapeutic option for tissue regeneration and Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) due to tolerogenic properties that eliminate the need for lifelong immunosuppression. This proof of concept study tested feasibility of myoblast fusion for Dystrophin Expressing. Chimeric Cell (DEC) therapy through in vitro characterization and in vivo assessment of engraftment, survival, and efficacy in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Murine DEC were created via ex vivo fusion of normal (snj) and dystrophin-deficient (mdx) myoblasts using polyethylene glycol. Efficacy of myoblast fusion was confirmed by flow cytometry and dystrophin immunostaining, while proliferative and myogenic differentiation capacity of DEC were assessed in vitro. Therapeutic effect after DEC transplant (0.5 × 106) into the gastrocnemius muscle (GM) of mdx mice was assessed by muscle functional tests. At 30 days post-transplant dystrophin expression in GM of injected mdx mice increased to 37.27 ± 12.1% and correlated with improvement of muscle strength and function. Our study confirmed feasibility and efficacy of DEC therapy and represents a novel SC based approach for treatment of muscular dystrophies.
Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Dystrophin; Ex vivo fusion; Mdx mice; Myoblasts; Stem cells; Therapy.