This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Muscular dystrophy effects as many as 250,000 Americans. But believe it or not, dogs are playing a role in ground-breaking research at University of Missouri Columbia. Mizzou scientists have successfully treated dogs with muscular dystrophy and people could be next.

In people and dogs with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the protein dystrophin is missing, due to a gene mutation.

In Dr. Dong Duan’s laboratory, scientists successfully treated a dog using gene therapy.

“Compared to its litter-mates, that are showing significant symptoms at this point, this dog hasn’t really shown any dystrophic symptoms throughout its lifetime. The dog is about 9 months of age now,” said Mizzou Research Assistant Kasun Kodippili.

The study dogs are about the same size as a small boy at about the time a boy would start showing muscular dystrophy. You may be wondering why you don’t see me interacting with one of the dogs. Study directors try to limit access to the dogs,to keep them virus and bug free.

Researchers deliver dystrophin to the dog’s muscles thru a common virus which does not make the dog sick. The medical breakthrough, the virus carrying the dystrophin, could also be used on people.

“About 80 percent of us have been affected by this virus at some point in our lives and if you take a blood you will see the antibody for this virus. And we’re all healthy we’re not having any problem,” said Univ. of Missouri Muscular Dystrophy Researcher Dr. Dong Duan.

Dr. Duan says that within two or three years his team could meet food and drug administration requirements needed to launch a clinical trial on people.

Dr. Duan says his project has received funding from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, among others.