Nutraceutical Screening in a Zebrafish Model of Muscular Dystrophy: Gingerol as a Possible Food Aid

Nutrients. 2021 Mar 19;13(3):998. doi: 10.3390/nu13030998.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, is an inherited neuromuscular disorder that causes loss of muscle mass and motor skills. In the era of genomic medicine, there is still no known cure for DMD. In clinical practice, there is a growing awareness of the possible importance of nutrition in neuromuscular diseases. This is mostly the result of patients' or caregivers' empirical reports of how active substances derived from food have led to improved muscle strength and, thus, better quality of life. In this report, we investigate several nutraceutical principles in the sapje strain of zebrafish, a validated model of DMD, in order to identify possible natural products that, if supplemented in the diet, might improve the quality of life of DMD patients. Gingerol, a constituent of fresh ginger, statistically increased the locomotion of mutant larvae and upregulated the expression of heme oxygenase 1, a target gene for therapy aimed at improving dystrophic symptoms. Although three other compounds showed a partial positive effect on locomotor and muscle structure phenotypes, our nutraceutical screening study lent preliminary support to the efficacy and safety only of gingerol. Gingerol could easily be proposed as a dietary supplement in DMD.

Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy; gingerol; heme oxygenase 1; locomotion; mitochondrial respiration; nutraceuticals; nutrition; zebrafish.