Researchers have identified a potential cause of fatigue in patients with neuromuscular diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The findings, published this week in Nature, could lead to new treatments that improve the quality of life for these patients.
Patients with neuromuscular disorders experience extreme fatigue after even the mildest of exertion. Kevin Campbell and colleagues find in mice with similar disorders that this is caused by a lack of a particular molecule in the membranes of muscle cells - neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). The team find a similar deficit in nNOS in tissue samples from patients with a wide range of disorders, suggesting a shared mechanism of fatigue.
In healthy muscles, nNOS signalling widens blood vessels to help them recover faster after exercise. Treating diseased mice with drugs that mimic the effects of nNOS had a similar effect, allowing the mice to regain activity after exercise much faster. The results suggest that a similar strategy could be used to treat patients.
Kevin Campbell (University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA)
Abstract available online.(C) Nature press release.
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