MDA Scientists Win Federal Stimulus Grants for Neuromuscular Disease Research

by Quest Staff on October 11, 2009 - 5:00pm

At least 15 Muscular Dystrophy Association research grantees, past and present, have won funding from the National Institutes of Health through the American Recovery and Revitalization Act (ARRA) to accelerate the search for treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases.

Funds from the $54.8 million devoted to neuromuscular research will continue investigation into the causes of degenerative muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonic muscular dystrophy and limb girdle muscular dystrophy.

“The NIH money will help us explain why muscle strength is reduced in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  It’s very helpful because it will open new avenues of therapies that we’ve never explored before,” said Donsheng Duan, PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia and a member of MDA’s Scientific Advisory Committee.  Duchenne is a muscle weakening disease that primarily affects young boys

The ARRA, also known as the federal stimulus package, was passed by Congress in February 2009 and will fund new research projects as well as ongoing science and must be used within two years.

The funding will continue work that MDA has been supporting for over 50 years.

“MDA can be proud that so many of these grants have been awarded based on a strong foundation of preliminary results obtained through MDA-funded investigations," said Dr. R. Rodney Howell, Chairman of the Board of MDA.

"We also celebrate the infusion of new federal dollars towards neuromuscular disease research,” added Howell.

Another member of MDA’s Scientific Advisory Committee, Grace Pavlath, Ph.D., of Emory University, will use a grant to continue her work on the role of muscle stem cells in muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Elizabeth McNally of the University of Chicago will receive new grant money to further research on the role of proteins in limb girdle muscular dystrophy.  LGMD is a muscle weakening disease that affects the shoulder and pelvic girdles in the early stages of the disease.  McNally is also a member of MDA’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

Also receiving grant money is Dr. Kevin Flanigan, neurologist and professor of genetic studies at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, for his work on Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy.

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research.  The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.

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