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U Of M Research Discovers Way to Regenerate Muscles

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's being called breakthrough research by medical journals around the world, and it's happening at the University of Minnesota.

Using stem cells, U of M researchers have found a way to regenerate muscles in diseased lab mice.

They hope this breakthrough will lead to better treatments for patients fighting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which brings with it learning disabilities, and extreme fatigue.

Researchers were able to essentially correct the gene mutation that causes muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Rita Perlingeiro heads the lab conducting the study. She explains the first step is to remove skin cells from the tail of a mouse with the disease.

"These are skin, simply skin," she said. "They don't make muscle."

Using a molecularly engineered protein, researchers reprogram the cell to make any tissue in the animal's body.

Next researchers corrected the disease in the reprogrammed cell, and reprogrammed them once again -- this time to be muscle stem cells.

"The next step is we specifically instruct them to make skeletal muscle," she said.

Researchers then measured the results using a device that quantifies muscle function. While the mice weren't cured, they were able to restore some mobility.

Perlingeiro says there are still many steps to go through before bringing this to humans. One of the obstacles they face is finding a way to make sure the cells are safe and virus free when inserting the missing genes into the reprogrammed cells.

Researchers have found a way to use a patient's own cells to generate healthy tissues.

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