MDA has awarded a research grant totaling $330,000 over three years to Jiou Wang, assistant professor of biochemistry & molecular biology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The new funds will help support Wang’s study of the molecular mechanisms underlying ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
"Genetic and protein discoveries in humans have opened the door to studying the disease in genetically-engineered animal models," Wang said. "The nematode, with its short lifespan and well-conserved nervous system, along with the availability of powerful genetic tools, provides a unique opportunity for dissecting the disease mechanisms of ALS."
With colleagues, Wang previously has established a nematode model of ALS that carries a mutation in the SOD1 gene (associated with the familial form of human ALS). In his new work, Wang and his study team plan to use the nematode model to compare the molecular mechanisms of toxicity in both the SOD1 protein and in another protein associated with ALS, TDP43. They aim to uncover the mechanisms by which the TDP43 and SOD1 disease genes trigger neurotoxicity, and then determine whether the same holds true in other mammals. It’s hoped in-depth analysis of these mechanisms will reveal pathways at which researchers can target effective therapeutics.
"Support from MDA is very special to us, as it allows us to continue our research into ALS," Wang said. "Since my graduate studies, I have focused my research on understanding the basic mechanisms of this devastating disease. Now, as an early-stage independent investigator, MDA support is critical in allowing me to continue to work on ALS."
Funding for this MDA grant began February 1, 2011.