Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive and lethal disease caused by mutations of the dystrophin gene. Currently no cure exists. Stem cell therapies targeting DMD are challenged by limited engraftment and rejection despite the use of immunosuppression. There is an urgent need to introduce new stem cell-based therapies that exhibit low allogenic profiles and improved cell engraftment. In this proof-of-concept study, we develop and test a new human stem cell-based approach to increase engraftment, limit rejection, and restore dystrophin expression in the mdx/scid mouse model of DMD. We introduce two Dystrophin Expressing Chimeric (DEC) cell lines created by ex vivo fusion of human myoblasts (MB) derived from two normal donors (MBN1/MBN2), and normal and DMD donors (MBN/MBDMD). The efficacy of fusion was confirmed by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy based on donor cell fluorescent labeling (PKH26/PKH67). In vitro, DEC displayed phenotype and genotype of donor parent cells, expressed dystrophin, and maintained proliferation and myogenic differentiation. In vivo, local delivery of both DEC lines (0.5 × 106) restored dystrophin expression (17.27%±8.05-MBN1/MBN2 and 23.79%±3.82-MBN/MBDMD) which correlated with significant improvement of muscle force, contraction and tolerance to fatigue at 90 days after DEC transplant to the gastrocnemius muscles (GM) of dystrophin-deficient mdx/scid mice. This study establishes DEC as a potential therapy for DMD and other types of muscular dystrophies.
Keywords: DEC therapy; DMD; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Dystrophin; Dystrophin expressing chimeric human cells; Ex vivo cell fusion; Mdx/scid mice; Myoblasts; Stem cells; Transplant.