Michael Francis, associate professor in the department of neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, received an MDA grant totaling $330,000 for research into effects on the connection between nerve and muscle known as the neuromuscular junction, or NMJ, in congenital myasthenic syndrome (CMS).
Francis and colleagues have engineered a research model using C. elegans, a type of worm also known as a nematode, that mimics many of the key features of a form of CMS called slow-channel congenital myasthenic syndrome (SCCMS). The team will use sophisticated genetic tools paired with measurements of the electrical properties such as voltage changes and electric currents in cells and tissues, and a sophisticated imaging technique called confocal microscopy in its analysis of NMJ function in both normal and diseased tissues.
The investigators plan also to pinpoint the molecular mechanisms underlying degeneration and alterations in NMJ function caused by neuromuscular disorders.
"We expect our efforts will provide key mechanistic insights into conserved molecular pathways important for NMJ development and function in the normal organism, as well as during diseases that impact NMJ function, such as SCCMS," Francis said. "Identifying the components of these pathways will be important for the development of new therapeutic strategies to combat neuromuscular disorders."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2010.