The quest for a treatment for muscular dystrophy has led some scientists to focus on the half-dozen muscles surrounding the eyes. These extraocular muscles, which control eye movement, remain untouched by the disease. Some researchers think they understand why and hope to turn that understanding into a treatment.

Normal distribution of dystrophin at the muscle cell surface and utrophin at sites of neuromuscular junctions (nmj). In animal models of Duchenne dystrophy, utrophin appears to expand beyond nerve-muscle junctions to replace dystrophin in extraocular muscle.
Muscular dystrophy affects about a quarter of a million people in the United States, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The most common form is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an X-linked recessive disease, most of whose victims die by their 20s.

The disease is marked by genetic mutation resulting in the absence of the membrane protein dystrophin, which is needed for muscle function. Without that protein the...

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