Update on the 28th annual World Muscle Society 2023 Congress

Our research communications officer, Dr Andrea Gubas, recently attended the 28th Annual World Muscle Society (WMS) Congress in Charleston, South Carolina. 

One of the largest conferences in the field of neuromuscular research the WMS Congress brings together scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates from across the world over a three-day period. Andrea shares an update on the event. 


The 28th Annual WMS Congress took place in Charleston, a gorgeous historic city on the coast of South Carolina, US, named after King Charles II. With over 900 participants and 400 people joining online, it’s one of the largest conferences in the world for neuromuscular experts. I had the pleasure of being there in person, listening to a series of exciting and informative talks and visiting some of the 500 posters (a popular method of presenting research findings at meetings) by clinicians and scientists from all around the world. 


A different take on muscle wasting 

The conference opened on the evening of 3 October with a keynote lecture by astronaut Don Thomas, who spoke about his experience of muscle atrophy in space and NASA’s research into measures to help prevent muscle wasting. 


The importance of diversity 

On the second day, Dr Gita Ramdharry from University College London, one of our former grant holders, spoke on the topic of diversity and inclusion, highlighting the need to ensure there is equal access to care for people living with a muscle wasting condition, regardless of their sex, race, and socio-economic background. She also stressed the importance of including people from all backgrounds in ongoing research. 


Debating the importance of biopsies 

Another exciting and enjoyable part of the conference was a formal, yet friendly, debate about whether muscle biopsy is still a good technique for diagnosing and monitoring muscle wasting conditions. Whether with the rapid development of genetic screening approaches and various magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, we should still rely on muscle biopsies.  


Dr Teresinha Evangelista, a neurologist and pathologist from the Institut de Myologie, France, argued that muscle biopsy is an effective, reliable, and fast technique to use. Professor Baziel van Engelen from the Radboud University Medical Centre, the Netherlands argued the opposite – that there are better, less invasive, and more reliable modern methods that can show the bigger picture regarding a muscle wasting condition. Despite the differences of opinion of the speakers, the audience still saw value in the information that comes from muscle biopsies. 


Lectures and posters 

I attended several talks from clinical experts discussing the importance of the differences of genetic and other characteristics amongst people with a muscle wasting condition. I also heard from experts talking about research into the management and treatment of conditions such a spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and nemaline myopathy. 


Several companies developing treatments for muscle wasting conditions sponsored sessions where researchers and clinicians spoke about the challenges of living with a muscle wasting condition, and how genetic changes can affect the outcome and the progression of a condition, and the differences treatments can make. Several lectures focused on exploring different diagnostic approaches, as well as the causes of muscle wasting conditions, including congenital myopathy and FSHD.  


Clinical researchers presented their hard work in developing exercise prescriptions for people living with muscle wasting conditions, including DMD, SMA, DM1, GNE myopathy and CMT. Developing prescribed exercise plans is a challenging process, as one size doesn’t fit all. Every person has a different lived experience of their condition, and their bodies are built differently. So, it’s very encouraging and exciting to see progress in this area of research, and how exercise has a positive effect on delaying the progression and increasing the quality of life for children and adults living with these conditions. 


On the final day of the conference, we heard from various clinicians about ongoing clinical trials and the very early results that have come out of them. It’s encouraging to see how the neuromuscular field is progressing.  



On the middle day, lectures finished by lunch time, and the participants were invited to join group activities to explore Charleston’s rich history by boat, bike or foot. 


Charleston North Carolina, USA


The conference was a great opportunity to meet people in person and to catch up with colleagues from other charities, as well as researchers we’re currently funding or have recently funded, including Professors Volker Straub, Francesco Muntoni and Laurent Servais.  


The impact of our work 

Throughout the conference, it was fantastic to see the impact the NorthStar Programme we funded has had in clinical trials and in setting the standards of care of children and adults living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  


I was able to see many posters and presentations about the projects we are currently funding, and the difference these will make for the research field and for people with muscle wasting conditions in the future. 


Looking ahead 

We’re hoping there will be more news to share in the near future and are already looking forward to the World Muscle Society Congress in 2024, in Prague.