Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a severe muscle wasting disease, characterized by a severely reduced lifespan in which cardiomyopathy is one of the leading causes of death. Multiple therapies aiming at dystrophin restoration have been approved. It is anticipated that these therapies will maintain muscle function for longer and extend the ambulatory period, which in turn will increase the cardiac workload which could be detrimental for cardiac function. We investigated the effects of voluntary running exercise in combination with low dystrophin levels on function and pathology of skeletal muscle and heart. We divided 15.5-month old female mdx (no dystrophin), mdx-XistΔhs (varying low dystrophin levels) and wild type mice (BL10-WT and XistΔhs-WT) to either a sedentary or voluntary wheel running regime and assessed muscle function at 17.5 months of age. Thereafter, a cardiac MRI was obtained, and muscle and heart histopathology were assessed. We show that voluntary exercise is beneficial to skeletal muscle and heart function in dystrophic mice while not affecting muscle pathology. Low amounts of dystrophin further improve skeletal muscle and cardiac function. These findings suggest that voluntary exercise may be beneficial for skeletal muscle and heart in DMD patients, especially in conjunction with low amounts of dystrophin.
Keywords: Cardiomyopathy; Exercise; Heart; Low dystrophin levels; Magnetic resonance imaging.
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