Youngjin Lee, postdoctoral associate in the department of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore was awarded an MDA development grant totaling $179,997 over three years. The funds will support Lee's study of the role of a protein called MCT-1 in ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease).
One hypothesis to explain the death of motor neurons in ALS suggests that glial cells, whose job it is to provide nerve cells with nourishment and support, do not provide enough necessary energy components called substrates.
One of these substrates, lactate, is delivered to neurons by a type of transporter protein known as MCT-1. Lee’s research team has generated mice specifically designed to help elucidate the activity, regulation and function of MCTs and the protein’s role in neurodegeneration in ALS.
Favorable results could lead to new targets at which to aim therapeutic agents capable of preventing or slowing disease progression.
"Funding by MDA is 'absolutely crucial' for us to understand the balance of energy between motor neurons and their protective glial cells," Lee said, "and to find further therapeutic targets for preventing disease progression in ALS."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.