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Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research focuses on early mechanisms

Blacksburg, Va. - A $1 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health will fund research at Virginia Tech to identify the cell-level mechanisms that start Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive and fatal muscle weakness disease that occurs in approximately one in 3,500 males.

The research project will focus on determining specific mechanisms responsible for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy early in life so that researchers can develop therapeutic approaches that will blunt or eliminate its onset, said researcher Robert Grange, assistant professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who will lead a group of scientists from several universities.

Working on the project are Jay Williams, professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech; David Thomas, professor and head, division of structural biology and biophysics, and Dawn Lowe, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, both at the University of Minnesota; and Chris Ward, assistant professor of biomedical science at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

"The goal is to find the mechanisms in the muscle cell by which Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is initiated," Grange said. Researchers have known that Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the result of defects in the gene that codes for the protein dystrophin, but it is still not clear why the muscles weaken and die. This work is to focus on one of the theories about this disease.

This study is looking at possible changes in the outer layer, or membrane of the muscle cell where dystrophin is normally found. When dystrophin is absent, the muscle cell does not work the same and eventually dies. The researchers will look at possible changes in the muscle membrane that may change the way signals are transmitted between the outside and inside of the cell.

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Contact: Mary Ann Johnson
jnayram@vt.edu
540-231-6975
Virginia Tech
11-Nov-2004


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