TUCSON, Ariz., Aug. 21, 2012 — Greater understanding of the causes and natural histories of neuromuscular diseases, and translation of the latest research advances into potential treatments are the focus of new projects funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s latest round of grants.
MDA awarded 33 grants totaling $10,684,481 million. The grants became effective in August 2012.
The new grants support the search for causative genetic defects, altered biological processes and therapeutic strategies in muscular dystrophy and the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA's program.
"We're especially pleased to award research grants that have application in so many areas and for so many of the diseases MDA covers," said MDA Vice President of Research Sanjay Bidichandani. "Many of these new projects, though focused on one disease, will have great impact on the state of science in other areas of neuromuscular disease research. It's a compelling illustration of the power and benefits that result from MDA's broad coverage of many diseases."
'Basic' grants seek specifics
The new MDA grants all are awarded through MDA's basic research program and seek to answer specific questions about biological processes in normal and diseased muscle and nerves.
For example, three new grants are focused on the search for specific gene defects that cause some rare forms of congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD), Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Any genes identified may provide targets at which to aim therapies.
Several grants involve the use of autologous adult stem cells for therapies aimed at muscle repair and regeneration. Such cells are derived from a person's own body – for example, from the skin, fat or bone marrow – and coaxed into becoming muscle cells or other desired cell types, then returned to the same person from whom they were taken. Cell-based therapies involving the transplantation of a person's own stem cells instead of cells taken from another source have a greater chance at success, as they are far less likely to trigger an immune system response that could make the body reject the new cells.
A number of grants also are focused on nonmuscle problems in neuromuscular diseases. For example, in Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, researchers are characterizing the details of cognitive and behavioral problems, and also examining the role in fatigue of abnormal regulation of blood flow by nitric oxide.
New grant stats
At its July 2012 meeting, MDA's Board of Directors reviewed and approved the new grants based on recommendations from the Association's Scientific and Medical Advisory Committees.
Of the 33 new grants, four are career development grants designed to increase the number of scientists committed to working on neuromuscular disease research. The remaining 29 awards are primary research grants meant to improve understanding of the causes of neuromuscular diseases or guide the development of strategies for their diagnosis and treatment.
The newly awarded grants will support research into 18 diseases in MDA's program. In addition, several of the grants address general muscle health and apply to most of the neuromuscular diseases under MDA’s umbrella.
For up-to-date information on all the latest MDA-funded research projects, see Grants at a Glance, a slideshow feature with photos and information on the new MDA grantees and their research. To learn more, read MDA Commits $10.7 Million to Neuromuscular Disease Research and ALS: New MDA Grants Focus on Multisystem Aspects of the Disease. To review the approximately 300 active research grants currently being funded by MDA, view this PDF.
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education. For more information on the Association's research and other programs, visit mda.org. Be sure to follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/MDAnational and Twitter @MDAnews.