XXI Seaweed Symposium

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Muscular Dystrophy

Introduction

Muscular Dystrophy is the name given to a group of diseases which affect the muscular and skeletal systems causing progressively increasing weakness and possibly death. Muscular Dystrophy causes weakness in muscle cells and protein thereby weakening the skeletomuscular system and death of muscle cells. It was first recognized around the mid nineteenth century among some boys who showed symptoms of progressive muscular weakness and death. Around the 1870s, Guillaume Duchenne who was a French Neurologist identified the most severe form of the disease, which was subsequently named after him. This form of the disease was called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Thereafter, it became apparent that other forms of the disease existed. At least, eight other forms of the disease which include the Becker form have been found to exist. Both Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy predominantly affect males because they are caused by a mutation of a gene found on the X chromosome. Most types of muscular dystrophy affect multiple systems of the body and show symptoms in the nervous system, gastrointestinal system, the eyes, brain and heart. In addition to the nine major types of muscular dystrophy, there are some other diseases with symptoms similar to muscular dystrophy.

Causes of Muscular Dystrophy

The main cause of muscular dystrophy is genetic inheritance. The main culprit is the dystrophin gene which may undergo mutation even in people with no history of genetic inheritance of the disease. About a third of MD patients fall into this category. The presence of the disease in the body means that the ability of the muscle tissue to create dystrophin and its related protein complex is impaired. Dystrophin protein’s helical spring nature gives it shock absorber qualities thus strengthening the skeletomuscular system. When its proper synthesis is impaired, it leads to progressive weakening of the muscular and skeletal system.

Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy causes a wide range of debilitating symptoms in the body which include progressive wasting of the muscles, drooping eyelids, spasms of the muscles lack of balance, curving of the back and spine, difficulty in breathing, inability to walk, atrophy and frequent falls among others.

Diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy

The diagnosis of the disease depends on the outcome of muscular biopsy, DNA analysis and some other types of tests. The specification of the type of muscular dystrophy depends on physical examination as different forms of the disease affect different groups of muscles in the body.

Managing the Disease

The disease has no known cure but proper physical therapy, occupational therapy and the use of antisense oligonucleotides is very beneficial for sufferers of the disease.

 
 

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