Necrosis of dystrophic myofibers in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and mdx mice results from defects in the subsarcolemmal protein dystrophin that cause membrane fragility and tears in the sarcolemma, and these lead to the destruction of the myofibers. The present study specifically tests whether overexpression of mIGF-1 in mdx/mIGF-1 transgenic mice reduces myofiber breakdown during the acute onset phase of dystrophy (at 21 days). The extent of muscle damage and Evans blue dye (EBD) staining of myofibers was quantitated histologically for mdx/mIGF-1 and their mdx littermates from 15 to 30 days of age. Overexpression of mIGF-1 strikingly reduced the extent of myofiber damage (histology and EBD staining) by up to 97% in tibialis anterior and quadriceps muscles at 21-22 days after birth. In the mdx diaphragm, the onset of muscle breakdown was earlier (by 15 days after birth) but no significant protective effect of IGF-1 was apparent within the first month of age in mdx/IGF-1 mice. These novel observations show that increased mIGF-1 within mdx myofibers specifically reduces the breakdown of dystrophic muscle during the acute onset of muscle degeneration. This mechanism of action can account for the long-term reduced severity of the dystropathology in mdx mice that overexpress mIGF-1 and provides promising opportunities for therapeutic strategies.