TUCSON, Ariz. (April 8, 2010) — Forty-two medical researchers and their labs have been awarded more than $21 million in grants by the Muscular Dystrophy Association to advance critical neuromuscular research in 2010. Many of the grants are multiyear awards to be dispersed over the next three years.
One of the grant recipients is Brett Morrison, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Morrison has been awarded $326,160 to continue his groundbreaking work studying the cells of the nervous system that may play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Including this grant, MDA has awarded Morrison $461,160 in grant money since 2007.
The grant is part of MDA’s ongoing commitment to funding neuromuscular research that may eventually lead to treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and related diseases.
“All of these grants were recommended for funding by the distinguished groups of neuromuscular disease researchers and clinicians voluntarily serving on the MDA Medical and Scientific Advisory Committees,” explains R. Rodney Howell, M.D., Chairman of the MDA Board of Directors. “Dr. Morrison is an outstanding scientist, and Brett’s contributions to the field of neuromuscular disease research continue to be impressive.”
Morrison’s research focuses on nervous system cell dysfunction and learning how specific cellular defects are created leading to the development of ALS.
“We have discovered that the capacity of astroglia, support cells in the nervous system, to provide nutrients to motor neurons is disrupted in ALS, and that this lack of nutrients likely contributes to motor neuron degeneration,” Morrison said. “With the assistance of funding from MDA, we hope to investigate further the mechanism by which this occurs and develop methods to offset this deficiency. We hope that our research will eventually lead to novel treatment strategies for ALS patients.”
In addition, Jeffrey Rothstein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and director of the University’s MDA/ALS center, has been awarded $361,185. The grant will allow Rothstein to continue his investigation into the function that nervous system support cells, or astroglial cells, could perform to protect nerve cells that die in ALS; and support Rothstein’s work to find compounds that may increase production of these potentially protective cells. Including this grant, MDA has awarded Rothstein $3,637,553 in scientific grant money since 1991.
All research grant applications go through a rigorous peer review process by MDA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committees, composed of world-renowned experts in neuromuscular diseases. Reviewers assess the protocols and methods used by the applying scientists, as well as the relevance of the applicant’s research to therapy development for the 40-plus neuromuscular diseases that MDA covers. Each year, about 500 researchers apply to MDA for research funding. MDA annually invests more than $40 million on international research projects.
Founded in 1950, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is the nation’s largest non-governmental funder of research seeking treatments and cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The first nonprofit organization to be recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Medical Association (“for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity”), MDA also provides unparalleled health care services through its network of more than 200 hospital-affiliated clinics; 36 of which are MDA/ALS Centers. MDA advocates for the families it serves; and invests significant resources educating the medical and scientific communities, as well as the general public, about neuromuscular diseases affecting more than 1 million Americans. Thanks to decades of generous contributions from caring individuals, plus outstanding support received from local, regional and national sponsors, MDA is credited for its role in building the entire field of neuromuscular disease research, while simultaneously nurturing clinical care to significantly improve both quality and length of lives for those affected by neuromuscular diseases.