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What causes muscular dystrophy?

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Muscular dystrophy (MD) is generally an inherited disease caused by gene mutations (changes in the DNA sequence) that affect proteins in muscles. In some cases, the mutation was not inherited from a person’s parents but instead happened spontaneously. Such a mutation can then be inherited by the affected person’s offspring.1

Hundreds of genes are involved in making the proteins that affect muscles. Each type of MD is caused by a genetic mutation that is specific to that type. Some of the forms, like lamb-girdle and distal, are caused by defects in the same gene.2

MD is not contagious and cannot be caused by injury or activity.3


  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). (2011). Muscular dystrophy: Hope through research. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/md/detail_md.htm [top]
  2. NIH Muscular Dystrophy Interagency Coordinating Committee. (2004). Muscular dystrophy research and education plan for the National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 25, 2012, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/find_people/groups/mdcc/MD_Plan_submitted.pdf (PDF - 8.47 MB) [top]
  3. Nemours Foundation. (2010). Muscular dystrophy. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/bones/muscular_dystrophy.html External Web Site Policy [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 12/06/2013
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology