Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal disease of striated muscle deterioration caused by lack of the cytoskeletal protein dystrophin. Dystrophin deficiency causes muscle membrane instability, skeletal muscle wasting, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure. Advances in palliative respiratory care have increased the incidence of heart disease in DMD patients, for which there is no cure or effective therapy. Here we have shown that chronic infusion of membrane-sealing poloxamer to severely affected dystrophic dogs reduced myocardial fibrosis, blocked increased serum cardiac troponin I (cTnI) and brain type natriuretic peptide (BNP), and fully prevented left-ventricular remodeling. Mechanistically, we observed a markedly greater primary defect of reduced cell compliance in dystrophic canine myocytes than in the mildly affected mdx mouse myocytes, and this was associated with a lack of utrophin upregulation in the dystrophic canine cardiac myocytes. Interestingly, after chronic poloxamer treatment, the poor compliance of isolated canine myocytes remained evident, but this could be restored to normal upon direct application of poloxamer. Collectively, these findings indicate that dystrophin and utrophin are critical to membrane stability–dependent cardiac myocyte mechanical compliance and that poloxamer confers a highly effective membrane-stabilizing chemical surrogate in dystrophin/utrophin deficiency. We propose that membrane sealant therapy is a potential treatment modality for DMD heart disease and possibly other disorders with membrane defect etiologies.
DeWayne Townsend, Immanuel Turner, Soichiro Yasuda, Joshua Martindale, Jennifer Davis, Michael Shillingford, Joe N. Kornegay, Joseph M. Metzger