Charles Abrams, an associate professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $414,787 over a period of three years to study the role of connexin protein mutations in type 1X Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (X-linked CMT, or CMT1X).
X-linked CMT differs from other types of CMT in that many people with the disease develop central nervous system signs and symptoms in addition to dysfunction of the peripheral nervous system. (In the CNS long nerve tracts convey information through the spinal cord to the brain, and from the brain down the spinal cord to the peripheral, or outer, nerves and muscles. The PNS is comprised of nerve fibers outside the spinal cord that send signals to the muscles and relay information from the periphery of the body back to the spinal cord and brain.)
More than 300 mutations in the gene for the connexin 32 protein have been linked to CMT1X. Abrams and colleagues will study whether interactions between mutated connexin 32 protein and a related CNS protein, connexin 47, are the cause of the CNS dysfunction found in the disease.
"We are at the early stages in our understanding of the roles of mutations in connexin 32 in the CMT1X disease process," Abrams said. "We have identified some of the ways in which mutations disrupt the function of connexin 32, but we still do not fully understand why these disruptions lead to both peripheral and central nervous system dysfunction."
Funding for this MDA grant began February 1, 2012.