Diego Fraidenraich, an assistant professor in the department of cell biology & molecular medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, was awarded an MDA grant totaling $375,000 over three years. The funds will support his study of the relationship between muscle and fat formation in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
These mice, like humans with DMD, lack the dystrophin protein in their skeletal muscles and heart because of a mutation in the dystrophin gene. They develop a muscle disease resembling human DMD.
Recently published reports have shown that skeletal muscle and fat have a common cellular ancestor, and Fraidenraich's team intends to understand the similarities and differences in the development of these two tissues.
In previous experiments, Fraidenraich and colleagues treated DMD mice with stem cells from healthy mice, so that the dystrophin protein was present in some, but not all, of their cells.
These so-called "mosaic" mice developed some normal muscle tissue from the stem cells, as well as some fat tissue that had muscle-like characteristics. The researchers termed this unusual, stem-cell-derived tissue "muscularized fat."
In his new work, Fraidenraich will seek to understand more about this muscle-like fat derived from the transplanted stem cells and define its possible role in the development of muscle. He'll also try to increase the ratio of muscle to fat in the DMD mice.
Fraidenraich hopes to provide new understanding of muscle formation that will supply leads for future therapies for DMD and perhaps other forms of muscular dystrophy.
He has received MDA funding since 2007, and says, "Continuous funding from MDA has allowed me to develop and expand my research program. The support has been instrumental to my research and my lab."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.