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Reading research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy hailed in Scottish Parliament – University of Reading

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Reading research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy hailed in Scottish Parliament

Release Date 22 November 2012

A debate in the Scottish Parliament on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) on 20 November cited ground-breaking research being conducted at the University of Reading into genetic medicines that could bring hope to the boys and young men that currently suffer from the incurable muscle-wasting disease.

Led by Dr Keith Foster of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading, this research is investigating gene medicines based on adeno-associated viruses (AAV) as a way to transfer the complete DMD gene into the muscle.

A recent European Commission decision has licensed the first gene therapy approved by regulatory authorities in the Western world (for cardiovascular disease) which is very encouraging news for the prospects of developing a Duchenne gene replacement therapy. The landmark EU decision to license gene therapy means there is now a pathway from laboratory to GP prescription for a potential drug for DMD. With funding, Dr Foster's research team are potentially three years away from starting clinical trials to develop a cure.

In the debate, Jim Eadie, MSP for Edinburgh Southern, cited Dr Foster and the progress that is being made in his research which could bring hope to the 1 in 3500 males born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. According to Dr Foster, within the field of DMD research, progress has been astounding. For the first time, he has developed "a method to restore a full length DMD gene to muscle using three safe AAVs".

Dr Foster's current work is funded by Action Duchenne, a charity working on behalf of the young men who suffer from DMD. DMD is caused by a genetic variation in the dystrophin gene and can result in boys affected requiring a wheelchair by the ages of 8 to 11. By the time the person is 30, Duchenne is life threatening, as the heart and lungs are affected. 

During the parliamentary debate, The Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, referenced the AAV research being conducted by Dr Foster. "That involves very exciting technology that is at the forefront of research into an effective treatment... I can confirm that officials from the chief scientist office have spoken to Action Duchenne with a view to co-funding such a project."

Find out more information about DMD on the Action Duchenne website.

Read a transcript of the parliamentary debate >>>

View the full debate on BBC Democracy Live >>>

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