The Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center (MDCRC), at the University of Iowa (UI), has won a $7.4 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), renewing its funding for five years, through 2020. The center’s key goals are both muscular dystrophy research and education of future medical specialists.
The MDCRC, established in 2005 and funded by the NIH, focuses on dystroglycanopathies, a group of muscular dystrophies caused by the aberrant processing of dystroglycan, a glycoprotein involved in the integrity and structure of muscle tissue and development of the brain and eye. Dystroglycanopathies are genetically and phenotypically diverse resulting in a range of conditions with different ages of onset and diverse degrees of clinical severity such as the more severe Walker Warburg syndrome, which involves eye and brain malformations, limb girdle muscular dystrophy, Muscle-Eye-Brain disease and Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. Researchers and clinicians involved in these studies want to provide better and more effective therapeutic approaches in diagnosis and treatment, with the knowledge and insight acquired in the laboratory.
Dr. Kevin Campbell, director of the MDCRC and chair and DEO of molecular physiology and biophysics at the UI Carver College of Medicine, commented on the funding’s importance in research and education, “In addition to providing critical support for our basic research and clinical advances, this grant also supports year-long fellowships for medical students, postdoctoral trainees, post-baccalaureate students, and undergraduate students”. The administration, research training and education are responsibilities shared with two other leadership members, co-director Dr. Steven Moore, MD and director of a national shared resource muscle biopsy and cell culture repository, and Dr Katherine Mathews, M.D., professor at the UI, director of the division of pediatric neurology at UI Children’s Hospital and principal investigator of clinical research at the MDCRC.
Six medical students have already received specialized training at the center since 2010, a key focus of the center as emphasized by Dr. Campbell, “These efforts are vital to train future basic scientists and clinicians who can partner to develop and test muscular dystrophy therapies.”