MDA awarded $352,188 to Zolt Arany, assistant professor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of Harvard Medical School in Boston, for research into the role of skeletal muscle metabolism in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
"It has become increasingly clear that skeletal muscle metabolism plays a critical role both in the onset of, and resistance to, neuromuscular diseases like DMD," Arany said. "Blood vessels are a critical component of metabolism, because they bring oxygen and nutrients to metabolically active tissues."
Arany's team recently uncovered a metabolic pathway that strongly induces the formation of new blood vessels in muscle. Previous work by others already has established that the pathway protects against muscle damage in a model of DMD, but it's not understood how it accomplishes this.
The new work is designed to test the hypothesis, in the mdx mouse model of DMD, that the metabolic pathway protects against muscle degeneration and atrophy by boosting the density and activity of blood vessels.
"Without support from the MDA, we would not be able to initiate these important studies," Arany said. "MDA has had an important impact on research in muscle dystrophy, and its role now, in times of federal budgetary constraints, is more critical and influential than ever."
A greater understanding of precisely how this particular metabolic pathway protects skeletal muscle may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for DMD and other devastating muscle diseases.
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2010.