Research

Treating Neuromuscular Diseases

Treating Neuromuscular Diseases

Research and clinical practice pioneered by Newcastle University’s internationally-renowned neuromuscular group has helped double the life expectancy of boys born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

This condition, which occurs once in every 3,500 male births, causes severe muscle weakness leading to heart and breathing problems. In the 1960s, boys with DMD generally lived until they were aged just 14 or 15.

Today, many young men with DMD can live to around 30 years of age, with a significantly improved quality of life.

Patient care guidelines developed by an international working group led by Professor Kate Bushby, and published in Lancet Neurology, played a significant role in bringing about these improvements.

Photo of Professor Katherine Bushby
Photo of Professor Kate Busby

Distinguished track record

Professors Bushby, Volker Straub and Hanns Lochmüller head a team of 80 experts in neuromuscular diseases based at the University’s Institute for Genetic Medicine.

It is also part of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases.

The team has now launched the Newcastle University John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre. Lord Walton helped establish Newcastle as a world centre for research in the 1950s. Building on this long and distinguished track record of work in the field, work will continue on:

  • the development of translational research
  • innovative clinical trials
  • international networking with over 13,000 patients in more than 30 countries
Video: Treating rare diseases

Calls for Investment

The group is also calling for more investment in research for treatments into rare diseases after its latest study, published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, revealed the full cost of DMD to the international economy.

The Lord Walton of Detchant TD: Photo of Lord Walton who helped establish Newcastle as a world centre for research in the 1950s
Photo of Lord Walton

Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign said "Professor Kate Bushby has played a vital role in these achievements, with her team at the heart of the development of genetic therapies and of innovation in healthcare for children and adults, both here in the UK and internationally."

Professor Bushby, who is recognised as one of the world’s top medical specialists in DMD research and treatment, said: “The direct cost of the illness across four countries is at least eight times higher than the average health expenditure per person.

This is a very significant finding for current health care planning for rare diseases, as well as the context for the innovative therapies under development.”

Discover More

  • See the full list of Professor Bushby’s publications and research interests
  • Watch the story of teenage DMD sufferer Lee Armstrong, who is taking part in one of Newcastle University’s clinical trials
  • Read more about Newcastle University’s long association with world-leading research into muscular dystrophy

Contact Information

Professor Kate Bushby
Email: kate.bushby@ncl.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 241 8757