Thursday, October 1, 2015

The University of Iowa, Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center (MDCRC) has received a five-year, $7.4 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to advance its work on finding treatments for muscular dystrophies.

Established in 2005 and continuously funded by the NIH since then, the center brings together UI researchers and clinicians to translate laboratory discoveries into improved diagnoses and therapies for a group of congenital and limb girdle muscular dystrophies caused by abnormalities in a protein called dystroglycan. This group of muscular dystrophies ranges in severity and age of onset, and includes Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Walker-Warburg Syndrome, Muscle-Eye-Brain disease, and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2I.

Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., chair and DEO of molecular physiology and biophysics at the UI Carver College of Medicine, directs the Iowa MDCRC and leads the group's basic science research; Steven Moore, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pathology, is co-director of the center and director of a national shared resource muscle biopsy and cell culture repository; and Katherine Mathews, M.D., UI professor and director of the division of pediatric neurology at UI Children's Hospital, is the principal investigator for the clinical research component of the MDCRC. Campbell, Mathews, and Moore also share responsibility for administration and for research training and education of the next generation of muscular dystrophy specialists, which Campbell notes is a primary focus of the center.

"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," says Campbell, who also is professor of internal medicine and neurology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "These efforts are vital to train future basic scientists and clinicians who can partner to develop and test muscular dystrophy therapies."

Since 2010, the center has provided specialized training to six medical students, three of whom are now engaged in medical residencies in pediatrics and pediatric neurology, and three of whom are completing their medical degrees at the UI Carver College of Medicine.

The UI center is one of six around the country named after Sen. Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.) who died in 2002. As a senator, Wellstone was instrumental in passing the Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research, and Education Amendments, which mandates that the NIH establish centers of excellence for basic and clinical research into Duchenne and other forms of muscular dystrophy.

Visit the UI Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center website to learn more about the organization.