Chris Ward, PhD, associate professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), has been awarded a five-year, $2,589,060 grant from the National Institutes of Health for the research project “Microtubule Regulated Mechanotransduction in Skeletal Muscle.” This research project builds upon Ward and his team’s previous work investigating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
DMD is a devastating, degenerative muscle disease caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene, resulting in the absence or reduction of the dystrophin protein. Through this disease, muscle becomes fragile and easily damaged, which predisposes the patient to muscle loss and respiratory and cardiac dysfunction, leading to premature death.
“Currently there is no genetic cure for DMD. Until effective genetic therapies become available, we are focusing on identifying dysregulated pathways responsible for disease progression,” Ward said. “Our ultimate goal is to design pharmacological interventions to halt or slow the progression of DMD.”
Through examining DMD heart and skeletal muscle, Ward and his team have discovered that alterations in microtubules lead to an excess of calcium and reactive oxygen signals that are responsible for disease pathology. The NIH grant will enable the team to define the mechanisms that alter the microtubules in DMD muscle and determine if pharmacological strategies targeting microtubules are effective in treating this devastating disease.