Lynn Megeney, senior scientist at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $300,000 over a period of three years to study how muscle stem cells are controlled.
When muscles are damaged, stem cells called satellite cells divide to form new muscle. In muscular dystrophies such as Duchenne (DMD) and Becker (BMD) muscular dystrophies, satellite cells offer a pool of stem cells that, at least temporarily, can replace the muscle cells that are lost in the disease. However, Megeney notes, “the steps that control the self-renewal process of these cell types remain largely unknown.” He is investigating the role of a critical enzyme called caspase 3, which promotes maturation of satellite cells into muscle fibers. Caspase 3 targets and cleaves other proteins, either activating or destroying them, and thus altering cell development. Megeney has identified one such target, called Pax7, and will work to learn more about this system and to discover other caspase 3 targets, in both cell culture and mouse models of muscular dystrophy.
“We anticipate that the knowledge gained through our research efforts will provide a means to direct both the self-renewal process, as well as the maturation steps toward fully functional adult muscle cells,” Megeny says. “These basic science innovations will influence stem cell mediated therapies in general, impacting the range of dystrophies that are amenable to such a therapeutic intervention.”
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2013.