MDA awarded associate professor Ashok Kumar at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, Ky., a grant totaling $349,206 for continued study of the molecular mechanisms that underlie disease onset and progression in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Kumar's team will work to identify biochemical changes in skeletal muscle caused by the loss of functional dystrophin protein in the disease.
"Recent studies in my laboratory have identified a set of proteins known as 'matrix metalloproteinase' (MMPs) that are highly deregulated in dystrophic muscles," Kumar said. "Interestingly, MMPs are the major enzymes responsible for tissue degradation in a number of disease states and conditions."
Kumar and colleagues have found that treatment with a molecule called batimastat is highly effective at ameliorating disease symptoms such as fiber necrosis (death) and inflammation, and improving skeletal muscle structure in dystrophin-deficient mice.
Now, the team will investigate the therapeutic potential of MMP-inhibiting drugs, some of which are already being used for other diseases in humans (including chemical relatives of the antibiotic tetracycline).
"I strongly believe that the current funding provided by MDA will open new avenues for treatment of DMD in the near future," Kumar said. "I sincerely thank MDA for its generous funding to pursue my research work in DMD."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2010.