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Regulating Muscle Decline: Small molecules linked to degenerative diseases

Deteriorating muscles in people with diseases such as muscular dystrophy have abnormal amounts of important gene-regulating molecules called microRNAs, new research shows.

These microRNAs—snippets of the molecule that copies genetic information from DNA—help regulate the working of cells by silencing as many as hundreds of genes each. Scientists knew that microRNAs play important roles in healthy muscle cells, but the new study is the first comprehensive survey of microRNA activity in these muscle-wasting diseases.

Scientists led by Louis M. Kunkel of Children's Hospital in Boston measured the activity of several hundred microRNAs in samples of muscle tissue taken from 88 patients with either Duchenne muscular dystrophy or one of nine similar diseases. The researchers found 185 microRNAs that had either elevated or reduced activities in the diseased tissue when compared with healthy muscles.

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