The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recently published new findings that may help those suffering from muscular dystrophy(MD). Two scientific papers from the CDC’s MD STARnet program are believed to be able to assist doctors better understand and track the crippling disease.
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that is passed down through families. It involves muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue, which tends to, more often than not, affect children and young adults. The disease gets worse as time goes on leading to the decreased physical mobility of the afflicted person. There are no known cures for MD, and patients are currently treated with physical therapy, orthopedic instruments, surgery, and steroids.
There are a number of known types of MD, all unique in certain ways. However, all negatively impact a person’s muscles. Complications from MD include cardiomyopathy, lung failure, scoliosis, and cataracts. Because MD is a genetic disease, people may show no symptoms but still possess the gene for the disorder. It is recommended that if one has a history of the ailment, genetic counseling should be pursued by parents as MD can be predicted with 95% accuracy during a pregnancy.
Although the disease has no cure, recent findings may be able to help those suffering from muscular dystrophy. A paper published by the CDC, Patterns of Growth in Ambulatory Males with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, may assist physicians in identifying abnormal trends in patients affected by this particular ailment. The study formulated the first ever growth charts made specifically for boys ages 2-12 who have Duchenne MD, have never taken steroids, and can still walk. Scientists then compared these results to the 2000 CDC growth charts for all male children.
Findings showed boys belonging to that specific demographic are likely to be shorter and heavier than boys in the same age group not inflicted by the disease. These traits can be expected to be consistent throughout the child’s adolescent years, and this new information may help doctors better identify those children suffering from Duchenne MD.
Another paper, Sibling Concordance for Clinical Features of Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophies, investigated whether or not the course of MD in one brother could predict the progression of the disease in another brother who also has the disease. This question is important to families with multiple sons with Duchenne or Becker MD because the study’s findings will potentially help doctors offer better guidance and advice to parents.
It was found that the time it took for an older brother to be unable to walk predicts the time it takes for the younger brother also to be unable to walk. Steroids were not found to greatly affect the results, however, only a small percentage of siblings studied took steroids. For each extra month the older brother was able to walk, the likelihood of the younger brother being unable to walk slightly decreased.
These new findings hopefully will help those suffering from muscular dystrophy be identified at an earlier age as well as assist in their overall treatment. The CDC’s MD STARnet research will soon study the relationship between Duchenne MD, Becker MD and race and ethnicity. Because there is currently no accurate data on how common most muscular dystrophies are in the United States, the program also will attempt to pursue ways in which to find this information.
By Peter Grazul
Top image credit: Justin Ferland. Many thanks to one of our commenters, Jenn, for allowing Guardian Liberty Voice to use the photograph of her two children, whose names are Austin and Max.