Peter Currie, a professor of medicine at Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, Australia, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $375,000 over three years. The funds will help support Currie's research, which involves screening for possible therapeutic molecules using the zebrafish model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
The underlying cause of DMD is an absence of the muscle protein dystrophin due to any of a large number of mutations in the dystrophin gene. Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), a less severe form of MD, is caused by dystrophin gene mutations that result in production of a partially functional dystrophin protein.
"While the current animal models of DMD have generated valuable insights into the pathological basis of the disease, each has their limitations," Currie notes. "We have isolated mutations in the zebrafish dystrophin gene and have determined that dystrophin-deficient zebrafish accurately model the human condition."
In this new project, Currie and his colleagues will undertake a drug screen for small molecules that can inhibit the onset of signs of muscular dystrophy in the dystrophin-deficient zebrafish.
"MDA funding has been critical in allowing me to pursue modeling muscular dystrophy in zebrafish," Currie said. "There is simply no way that the research that has happened around muscle disease modeling in my laboratory would have occurred at the pace that it has without the generous support of MDA."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.