Premkumar Christadoss, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $390,000 over a period of three years to study the potential for gene therapy as a treatment in myasthenia gravis (MG).
In MG, an "autoimmune" disease, the immune system attacks the body's own tissues. The attack occurs at the junction between nerve and muscle, and targets the acetylcholine receptor, the part of a muscle cell that receives signals from a nerve cell. Specific functions involved in driving the attack are generated by components (including the proteins C2, C4 and C1) in what is known as the complement system.
In a research mouse model of MG, Christadoss and colleagues will administer what are called small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) designed to block activation of C2, C4 and/or C1. Inhibition of the proteins should shed light on each protein's role in the autoimmune disease process and guide the development of therapies that can target them.
"Successful completion of this project will lead to human complement C2, C4 or C1 siRNA gene therapy for myasthenia gravis," Christadoss said. "Moreover, this complement gene therapy can be applied to other complement-mediated muscle diseases as well."
Funding for this MDA grant began February 1, 2012.