Atsushi Asakura, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $378,531 over three years to study how the system of blood vessels known as the vasculature affects muscles in Duchenne (DMD) and Becker (BMD) muscular dystrophies.
Data from recent studies suggests that dystrophin — the protein deficient in DMD — plays a role in blood vessel health and maintenance. The absence of dystrophin in the vasculature results in vascular deficiency, making it likely that disturbed blood flow also is a cause of DMD-related muscle damage.
Therefore, Asakura says, “Definitive treatment of DMD will require both muscle fiber and blood vessel repair.”
With colleagues, Asakura is working to understand how vasculature affects muscle stem cells and regeneration in muscular dystrophies, and to develop a therapy based on growing new blood vessels. The team will examine the effects of increased blood-vessel growth on muscles in a research mouse model of DMD.
“The hope is that at least some, or combinations of, the vascular-targeted therapies will soon have clinical utility and provide current and future human beings living with DMD or other muscular dystrophies enhanced control over their own destiny,” Asakura says.
Funding for this MDA grant began Aug. 1, 2012.