MDA has awarded a research grant totaling $321,489 over a period of three years to Elizabeth Chen, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The funds will help support Chen's research into a mechanistic understanding of normal muscle physiology, which will inform potential therapeutic strategies aimed at treating various genetic and acquired degenerative muscle diseases.
Skeletal muscle is composed of large numbers of muscle fibers, each of which is the product of fusion between hundreds or even thousands of immature muscle cells called myoblasts. Myoblast fusion is not only important for skeletal muscle development, but also essential for stem-cell-based muscle regeneration.
Despite a large body of studies over several decades, the mechanisms underlying myoblast fusion in mammals remain poorly understood.
In this study, Chen and colleagues plan to characterize the role of a small type of protein called a GTPase during myoblast fusion in fruit fly (drosophila) muscle development and in a mouse model of muscle regeneration.
"While studies in Drosophila continue to provide novel insights into the molecular and cellular mechanism of myoblast fusion, the fundamental principles revealed by the Drosophila studies are now being tested in the mammalian systems," Chen said. "Such a cross-species approach will provide the basis for enhancing therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of a variety of muscle degenerative disease."
Funding for this MDA grant began Feb. 1, 2012.