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Various therapeutic approaches have been studied for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), but none of these approaches have led to significant long-term effects in patients. One reason for this observed inefficacy may be the use of inappropriate animal models for the testing of therapeutic agents. The mdx mouse is the most widely used murine model of DMD, yet it does not model the fibrotic progression observed in patients. Other murine models of DMD are available that lack one or both alleles of utrophin, a functional analog of dystrophin. The aim of this study was to compare fibrosis and myofiber damage in the mdx, mdx/utrn+/- and double knockout (dko) mouse models.We used Masson’s trichrome stain and percentage of centrally-nucleated myofibers as indicators of fibrosis and myofiber regeneration, respectively, to assess disease progression in diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscles harvested from young and aged wild-type, mdx, mdx/utrn+/- and dko mice. Our results indicated that eight week-old gastrocnemius muscles of both mdx/utrn+/- and dko hind limb developed fibrosis whereas age-matched mdx gastrocnemius muscle did not (p = 0.002). The amount of collagen found in the mdx/utrn+/- diaphragm was significantly higher than that found in the corresponding diaphragm muscles of wild-type animals, but not of mdx animals (p = 0.0003). Aged mdx/utrn+/- mice developed fibrosis in both diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscles compared to wild-type controls (p = 0.003). Mdx diaphragm was fibrotic in aged mice as well (p = 0.0235), whereas the gastrocnemius muscle in these animals was not fibrotic. We did not measure a significant difference in collagen staining between wild-type and mdx gastrocnemius muscles. The results of this study support previous reports that the moderately-affected mdx/utrn+/- mouse is a better model of DMD, and we show here that this difference is apparent by 2 months of age.

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