MDA has awarded a research grant totaling $362,760 over three years to Kathryn Wagner, an associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Center for Genetic Muscle Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, both in Baltimore.
The grant will help support Wagner's studies of how a muscle protein called myostatin regulates the fate of muscle stem cells. The studies may have particular application to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD), facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD).
In most muscular dystrophies, muscle regeneration becomes less effective over time, and muscle is replaced by fibrosis (scar tissue).
"The factors that govern the establishment of fibrosis are not well-understood," Wagner said. "However, myostatin, a regulator of muscle growth, is one important factor in the development of fibrosis. In the absence of myostatin, muscle regenerates more quickly and with less fibrosis."
Wagner's studies will determine whether one of the cells that's important for muscle regeneration, a muscle stem cell called a satellite cell, can become misdirected and contribute to fibrosis. "The studies will specifically evaluate whether myostatin is a cue that directs satellite cells away from forming new muscle and toward fibrosis," Wagner said.
She noted that, if this hypothesis is correct, then anti-myostatin therapies could have an important role to play in stimulating muscle regeneration and reducing muscle fibrosis in a variety of diseases.
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.