MDA awarded a grant totaling $303,438 to Kurt Beam, professor in the department of physiology and biophysics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, for research into a process called excitation-contraction coupling responsible for the contraction of muscle cells necessary for voluntary movement and breathing.
"Excitation-contraction coupling is a fundamental process in skeletal muscle that is not yet well-understood," Beam said. "Additionally, mutations of the key proteins involved in excitation-contraction coupling cause serious human muscle diseases, including periodic paralyses, malignant hyperthermia and central core disease."
The process is initiated by electrical impulses which move along the membrane that separates the inside and outside of each muscle cell, and depends, at least in part, on two proteins called DHPR and RyR1.
In completed studies, Beam and his group have shown that mutations of either DHPR or RyR1 affect the behavior of both proteins. In their new work, the investigators will study cultured mouse muscle cells as they attempt to uncover the molecular mechanism for communication between DHPR and RYR1.
"The importance of MDA to neuromuscular research cannot be measured in dollars alone. In particular, MDA has been at the forefront in promoting basic and applied research directed toward understanding normal muscle function, mechanisms of muscle disease and development of therapies for these diseases," Beam said. "An especially important role that MDA plays is to provide funding during early career stages and at times when funding from other sources becomes scarce. I do not believe that I would have been able to establish and maintain my neuromuscular research had it not been for funding from MDA at crucial points in my career."
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2010.