The Institute of Myology: Muscle Science and Medicine through Innovation

In the heart of Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris, the largest hospital in Europe, the Institute of Myology is a pioneer in the study of muscle and its pathologies. Founded in 1996 at the instigation of the AFM-Téléthon, it now brings together 250 muscle experts.

Housed in several buildings of Pitié-Salpêtrière in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, the Institute of Myology concentrates all aspects of muscle study: diagnosis, care, research… The Institute is also a reference center for neuromuscular patients. The Department of Neuromyology has been welcoming patients for the multidisciplinary follow-up and their examinations for three years, and also has a day clinic service that allows better management of pathologies and access to the latest medicines and innovations. The Department of Neuromyology supports approximately 3,500 consultations per year and 1,400 hospitalizations.

The muscle, that little-known organ

The human body has no fewer than 600 muscles, which make up almost 40% of its total mass. For example, a simple smile mobilizes 17 muscles. The two vital muscles of the body are the heart and the diaphragm. A person loses about 30% of their muscle mass between the ages of 35 and 75, the medical contribution to muscle aging is only greater. The benefits of sport are therefore essential for healthy aging and for limiting muscle mass loss. Muscle is an essential organ for everyone’s overall health.

What is myology?

Myology studies the muscle in all its states: healthy, diseased, aging and athletic. There are more than 400 different muscle diseases, so-called neuromuscular diseases. There is no treatment for most of these diseases and the institute was founded by AFM-Téléthon to understand these diseases and develop research into innovative medicines to treat them. Among the best-known myopathies is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the origin of the struggle of the AFM-Téléthon. This rare disease affects 150 to 200 newborn boys in France and around 2,500 people in France every year. Thanks to better knowledge of the disease and proper care, patients’ life expectancy has increased by 15 years.

Patient being treated by a doctor
© Jean-Yves Seguy / AFM Telethon

The Institute for Myology: a competence center that focuses on the patient

The Institute of Myology was built and founded around the desire of the AFM-Téléthon to have a unique place for expertise and excellence about the muscle and its diseases. This is also made possible by the physical proximity between the institute’s various laboratories. The essential diagnostics are facilitated by the exchanges between the different departments and laboratories of the institute, which work together on the basis of the results of basic research. The latter also has a huge muscle tissue biobank with more than 25,000 samples made available to research teams around the world.

myotools from the Institute of Myology
© Jean-Yves Seguy / AFM Telethon

Innovation is a source of hope for myology

Today, therapeutic studies are multiplying. For this reason, the Institute of Myology has created special platforms for adults and children. Testing requires both tools and state-of-the-art technology, which the institute’s researchers help to develop. The Institute of Myology has therefore developed special tools for fine force measurement, the so-called MyoTools. As Jean-Yves Hogrel, Head of the Physiology and Neuromuscular Assessment Laboratory, points out: “ the tools developed here can then be used by everyone “. Among these innovative devices is the MyoQuad, which measures the strength of the quadriceps. In addition, at the Institute of Myology, we conduct tests on innovative compensatory devices such as exoskeletons for the lower extremities, which we tested during our visit in April 2022.

© Jean-Yves Seguy / AFM Telethon

The Institute of Myology, world leader in its field

Since myology is not yet a recognized medical discipline as such, the Institute of Myology is a unique place of competence. Ten research teams work on specific questions and several dozen neuromuscular diseases (out of about 400 diseases identified). It doesn’t seem like much, but as Bertrand Fontaine, Medical and Scientific Director of the Institute of Myology, points out: ” One molecule can be used to treat multiple diseases, it’s a “collaborative competition” with other research institutes “.

The various laboratories work hand in hand with foreign hospitals and international universities (European countries but also Brazil, Israel, Argentina, Australia, Japan, etc.). The institute also has a very important educational goal through a cross-departmental and internationally open teaching assignment.

Institute of Myology
© Jean-Yves Seguy / AFM Telethon

The future foundation for myology will enable international influence

In an effort to become indispensable in the field of muscle research in all its forms, the Institute of Myology will soon pass from the statute of the Associations Act of 1901 to that of a foundation recognized as non-profit. This will allow the institute to consolidate and deploy all its expertise and laboratories in a single, new, state-of-the-art site, still close to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital. The Foundation will be able to attract new skills and expertise and use its international influence to have myology recognized as a medical discipline in its own right.

– Natacha Marbot

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