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Scientific Articles

Discovery of Novel Therapeutics for Muscular Dystrophies Using Zebrafish Phenotypic Screens

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source: Journal of Neuromuscular Diseases

year: 2019

authors: Widrick JJ, Kawahara G, Alexander MS, Beggs AH, Kunkel LM


The recent availability and development of mutant and transgenic zebrafish strains that model human muscular dystrophies has created new research opportunities for therapeutic development. Not only do these models mimic many pathological aspects of human dystrophies, but their small size, large clutch sizes, rapid ex utero development, body transparency, and genetic tractability enable research approaches that would be inconceivable with mammalian model systems. Here we discuss the use of zebrafish models of muscular dystrophy to rapidly screen hundreds to thousands of bioactive compounds in order to identify novel therapeutic candidates that modulate pathologic phenotypes.

We review the justification and rationale behind this unbiased approach, including how zebrafish screens have identified FDA-approved drugs that are candidates for treating Duchenne and limb girdle muscular dystrophies. Not only can these drugs be re-purposed for treating dystrophies in a fraction of the time and cost of new drug development, but their identification has revealed novel, unexpected directions for future therapy development. Phenotype-driven zebrafish drug screens are an important compliment to the more established mammalian, target-based approaches for rapidly developing and validating therapeutics for muscular dystrophies.

organization: Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA; Tokyo Medical University, Japan; The University of Alabama, USA; Harvard Stem Cell Institute, USA

DOI: 10.3233/JND-190389

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