New Muscular Dystrophy Research Examines the Impact of Exercise

A new study from Illinois State University looked at the impact that exercise can have on people who have muscular dystrophy.

The research, funded through the National Institutes of Health, was conducted by Andrés Vidal-Gadea, Assistant Professor of Molecular Neuroethology, at Illinois State. The study was innovative in that Vidal-Gadea was able to replicate symptoms of muscular dystrophy in an animal: the C. elegans worm. The worms used in the study were created with genetic abnormalities that mimicked muscular dystrophy as it occurs in humans.

According to a news announcement, the worms lived in “more natural environments” as they were studied to determine if exercise could be beneficial.

The worms were placed into environments in which they could swim and burrow. Those activities were meant to mirror human activities such as jogging and weight lifting.

The study found that worms that exercised did develop muscles, unlike their counterparts that did not exercise. But the worms that exercised did not live longer, and the course of their muscular dystrophy-like disease did not change.

In the announcement, Vidal-Gadea said, “It’s unfortunate, but our interpretation is that the exercise tested does not impact the course of the disease.”

The three-year study also examined such situations as how calcium is released by healthy muscles and by muscles impacted by muscular dystrophy. “There is a build-up of calcium that is released when the muscles contract,” said Vidal-Gadea. “For those who have muscular dystrophy, the amount of calcium released can be notably higher.”

Determining when and how calcium regulation is impacted could help researchers to determine how to improve quality of life and functioning for muscular dystrophy patients.

The research will continue with the support of funding from the National Institutes of Health.

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Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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