Researchers have prompted the growth of healthy and functioning muscle cells in mice afflicted with a human model of muscular dystrophy.
The study, conducted by a team at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, represents the first time that transplanted embryonic cells have been shown to restore function to defective muscles in a model of muscular dystrophy.
The newly-developed technique involves stringent sorting to preserve all stem cells destined to become muscle.
Ultimately it helps avoid the risk of tumour formation and improves the overall muscle strength and co-ordination of the mice.
Dr Rita Perlingeiro, who led the research, said: "We envision eventually developing a stem-cell therapy for humans with muscular dystrophy, if we are able to successfully combine this approach with the technology now available to make human embryonic stem cells from reprogrammed skin cells."
She added that the cells could then be transplanted into the muscle- resulting in stronger muscle contractility.
The mice use in the study lacked dystrophin- the same protein humans with the condition lack.
The treated mice were found to have improved co-ordination which signified that the embryonic stem cells have "benefited the animal's quality of life".
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, there are approximately 30,000 people in the UK with a neuromuscular condition.
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