The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Sept. 29, 2010, that it will allocate more than $4.5 million for the first year of a five-year commitment to explore new treatment strategies for various forms of muscular dystrophy.
Support will go to three U.S. institutions: Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
All three are Sen. Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Centers. These centers came into being as a result of the MD-CARE Act, passed by Congress with MDA support in 2001 and reauthorized in 2008 (see MD-CARE Passes).
The Nationwide Children's Hospital Center was designated as a Wellstone Center in August 2010 (see Nationwide Children's Hospital Named MD Research Center); the other two centers were designated earlier and have been receiving NIH support.
The new Wellstone Center funding is a combined effort on the part of three NIH institutes: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS); the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
Overcoming immune system barriers
Nationwide investigators, under the direction of Jerry Mendell, who has MDA research funding and co-directs the MDA clinic at his institution, will focus on strategies to overcome immune system barriers to gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Inhibiting scar-tissue formation
University of Pennsvylania investigators, led by H. Lee Sweeney, who has received several MDA research grants, will focus on inhibiting scar formation (fibrosis) in muscular dystrophy-affected muscle and developing imaging techniques to assess scar-tissue formation.
Restoring dystroglycan processing
At the University of Iowa, Kevin Campbell, a longtime MDA research grantee, will lead a research group that will explore strategies to restore normal processing of muscle dystroglycan proteins. Abnormal dystroglycan processing results in various forms of MD, most of which are classified as congenital muscular dystrophies.
For additional information
To learn more, please see NIH awards Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center grants.