Sonja Nowotschin, a postdoctoral research fellow in the developmental biology department at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, has been awarded an MDA development grant totaling $163,638 over three years. (Development grants are MDA's mechanism for furthering the career development of promising young researchers.)
The funding will help support Nowotschin's research on how muscles are formed at the embryo stage, with the goal of understanding and ultimately treating congenital muscular dystrophies (CMDs) and congenital myopathies, such as myotonia congenita, paramyotonia congenita, central core disease (CCD), nemaline myopathy, myotubular/centronuclear myopathies (MTM/CNMs) and periodic paralysis.
Nowotschin and her colleagues will study embryonic mice to investigate the origin and development of the skeletal muscles. They'll identify and study the stem cells that form muscles in mice with and without genetic mutations.
"Knowledge gained from these studies will assist logical efforts to design new therapeutic strategies," Nowotschin said.
"Importantly," she added, "by investigating the molecular mechanisms operating in the embryo, we will be able to formulate the molecular principles that should assist in developing methods to reprogram adult, or 'differentiated,' cells." Cells that have matured (differentiated) into muscle tissue and have then been reprogrammed back into stem cells are being considered as possible therapies to treat muscle disease.
MDA funding, Nowotschin said, "is essential to move this project forward."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.