Developing an advanced molecular patch therapy for myotonic dystrophy type 1

Professor Wood in his lab, University of Oxford

Professor Matthew Wood at Oxford University is developing a molecular patch that could be a potential treatment for people with myotonic dystrophy type 1. This research will also help to further enhance molecular patch technology, which will be beneficial for the neuromuscular field in the long-term.

(October 2019) Read an update on this project here: Molecular patches show promise in a mouse model of myotonic dystrophy type 1

What are the aims of the project?

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 is caused by an expansion of DNA within the DMPK gene. This leads to the production of mutant DMPK RNA, which gets trapped in the nucleus and has toxic effects to the cell.

The aim of this project is to develop an advanced molecular patch that binds to the mutant DMPK RNA and blocks its toxic effects. This could therefore be a potential treatment for people with myotonic dystrophy type 1.

Professor Wood and his team will link the molecular patches to short fragments of protein called peptides. These peptides help the molecular patches to get inside cells, thus improving their delivery into muscles and other parts of the body.

Firstly, the researchers will test several peptide-linked molecular patches in cells originating from people with myotonic dystrophy type 1 and mouse models. They will then select the best molecular patch, based on the ability to reduce symptoms with minimal side effects. Finally, they will inject different doses of the lead molecular patch into mouse models and then monitor its effects in the long-term. This will establish the doses at which the patch is most effective and how long the effect lasts.

Why is this research important?

Problems in the heart and diaphragm can be life-limiting for people with myotonic dystrophy type 1, so it is crucial that future treatments target these organs. Molecular patches that are currently in clinical trial are not very good at getting inside the heart and diaphragm. This project will help to address this problem by linking the molecular patches to peptides. Enhancing the technology in this way could therefore lead to better therapeutic outcomes.

How will the outcomes of this research benefit people with myotonic dystrophy?

To date, the only treatments available for people with myotonic dystrophy type 1 are those that address some of the symptoms. This research could lead to the development of a treatment that directly targets the genetic cause of the condition. This may have the potential to reverse, or at least slow down, the deterioration of tissues affected by the condition, including the movement muscles, heart, diaphragm and brain.

How might this research impact on other neuromuscular conditions?

Molecular patches have the potential to treat the underlying genetic causes of a range of muscle-wasting conditions. This project will enhance molecular patch technology so that it can target muscles effectively and efficiently, which will be helpful for designing molecular patches for other neuromuscular conditions.

Grant information

Project leader: Professor Matthew Wood
Institute: Oxford University
Condition: Myotonic dystrophy type 1
Duration: three years, starting 2016
Total cost: £219,992
Official title: Advanced peptide-oligonucleotide therapy for myotonic dystrophy type 1

Further information

Read an update on this project here (25/10/2019)

Find out what other myotonic dystrophy research projects we’re funding

Read our factsheet on myotonic dystrophy

Find out more about the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre

This research would not have been possible without individual donations, family fundraising activities, trusts and corporate support for our Myotonic Research Breakthrough Fund.

Donate now and help us ensure that effective treatments and expert care are available to all those living with myotonic dystrophy. Thank you.

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