Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a severe, X-linked muscle wasting disorder caused by the absence of an integral structural
protein called dystrophin. This is caused by mutations or deletions in the dystrophin gene which disrupt the reading frame, thereby halting
the production of a functional protein. A number of potential therapies have been investigated for the treatment of this disease including
utrophin upregulation, ‘stop-codon read through’ aminoglycosides and adeno-associated virus gene replacement as well as stem cell
therapy. However, the most promising treatment to date is the use of antisense oligonucleotides which cause exon skipping by binding to
a specific mRNA sequence, skipping the desired exon, thereby restoring the reading frame and producing a truncated yet functional protein.
The results from recent 2’OMePS and morpholino clinical trials have renewed hope for Duchenne patients; however in vivo studies
in a mouse model, mdx, have revealed low systemic distribution and poor delivery of oligonucleotides to affected tissues such as the
brain and heart. However a variety of cell penetrating peptides directly conjugated to antisense oligonucleotides have been shown to enhance
delivery in Duchenne model systems with improved systemic distribution and greater efficacy compared to ‘naked’ antisense oligonucleotides.
These cell penetrating peptides, combined with an optimised dose and dosing regimen, as well as thorough toxicity profile
have the potential to be developed into a promising treatment which may be progressed to clinical trial.