Scientists said in the British journal Nature that they had created a "minigene" that mimics the gene linked to the most common and severe form of muscular dystrophy, a step toward gene therapy for the disease.

The synthetic gene contains key portions of the muscular dystrophy gene found in mice, which strongly resembles the human version.The synthetic gene functioned when put into experimental cells, researchers said.

Scientists said the accomplishment boosts prospects for treating Duchenne dystrophy, the most devastating and common form, by supplying muscle cells with a functioning version of the gene. Duchenne occurs in people who lack that version.