Harold Bernstein, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, has been awarded an MDA research grant totaling $540,000 over three years. The award will help support Bernstein's study of human muscle development and potential cell-based therapies for treatment of degenerative muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
In his new work, Bernstein and colleagues will study the pathways that different types of muscle stem cells follow as they form new muscle, and identify the particular muscle stem cell types that appear most suited for therapeutic development.
The team will first observe the maturation of human stem cells into muscle cells in culture (in the laboratory), as a means of identifying the stages of normal muscle development. The investigators will then transplant the cells at various stages of development into the leg muscles of mice with a disease resembling DMD and study the process by which these cells become new muscle tissue, how this affects the animals' ability to exercise, and the strength of the treated muscles.
Bernstein's team hopes to fully elucidate the process of normal human muscle stem cell development and, in addition, identify specific stem cell types that may provide therapeutic benefit when transplanted into DMD-affected muscle.
"Funding from the Muscular Dystrophy Association will allow us to extend our research on muscle development and stem cell biology into studies specifically focused on therapy," Bernstein said. "This funding provides important support for research that will directly translate into improved treatment for patients with muscular dystrophy."
Funding for this MDA grant began February 1, 2011.