Myostatin and activin blockade by engineered follistatin results in hypertrophy and improves dystrophic pathology in mdx mouse more than myostatin blockade alone

Skelet Muscle. 2018 Oct 27;8(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s13395-018-0180-z.


Background: Myostatin antagonists are being developed as therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy due to their strong hypertrophic effects on skeletal muscle. Engineered follistatin has the potential to combine the hypertrophy of myostatin antagonism with the anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects of activin A antagonism.

Methods: Engineered follistatin was administered to C57BL/6 mice for 4 weeks, and muscle mass and myofiber size was measured. In the mdx model, engineered follistatin was dosed for 12 weeks in two studies comparing to an Fc fusion of the activin IIB receptor or an anti-myostatin antibody. Functional measurements of grip strength and tetanic force were combined with tissue analysis for markers of necrosis, inflammation, and fibrosis to evaluate improvement in dystrophic pathology.

Results: In wild-type and mdx mice, dose-dependent increases in muscle mass and quadriceps myofiber size were observed for engineered follistatin. In mdx, increases in grip strength and tetanic force were combined with improvements in muscle markers for necrosis, inflammation, and fibrosis. Improvements in dystrophic pathology were greater for engineered follistatin than the anti-myostatin antibody.

Conclusions: Engineered follistatin generated hypertrophy and anti-fibrotic effects in the mdx model.

Keywords: Activin a; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Fibrosis; Follistatin; Hypertrophy; Myostatin; mdx.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Follistatin / administration & dosage
  • Follistatin / therapeutic use*
  • Hand Strength
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscular Dystrophies / drug therapy*
  • Myostatin / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Follistatin
  • Myostatin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • activin A
  • Activins