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We’ve awarded £1.3 million-worth of new research grants

4 September 2023

We’re delighted to announce we have awarded 11 new grants worth over £1.3m to research projects as part of our 2023 grant round. These new research projects are aimed at improving diagnosis, monitoring progression, and testing potential new treatments for muscle-wasting conditions. This brings the total number of research projects we fund to 43.

Our new research grants cover a variety of different muscle-wasting conditions, such as ADSSL1 myopathy, Becker muscular dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mitochondrial myopathy, myasthenia gravis, myotonic dystrophy type 1, as well as spinal muscular atrophy. 

Funding firsts and increasing our reach 

We’re very excited that for the first time we’ll be funding research into ADSSL1 myopathy and X-linked spinal muscular atrophy (XL-SMA). We’re equally proud to see an increasing number of conditions in our research portfolio.  

Funding projects across the UK 

Our grants now reach across the whole of the UK, with grants awarded this year to projects across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These include projects at Manchester Metropolitan University, Cardiff University, and the University of Ulster.  

Our 2023 grants were awarded to: 

Dr Fabrizio Pertusati at Cardiff University will produce synthetic drugs that could improve how energy is used in muscles as potential treatments for ADSSL1 myopathy. 

A PhD studentship project, Professor Linda Popplewell and her student will be working to develop a new therapy to correct genes in people with Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), with the onward potential to delay the progression of BMD and prevent early onset of heart complications.  

Dr Maria Isabel Leite will be using the latest techniques to investigate proteins that trigger the immune response that leads to myasthenia gravis (MG), to develop a better understanding of the cause of MG and to improve future treatments. 

Professor Grainne Gorman will be looking at changes in mitochondria in the muscles of people with myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) following 12 weeks of light weightlifting training. Knowing what happens to mitochondria in these muscles will help identify therapy targets for treating DM1. 

Professor Giampietro Schiavo and his research team will explore whether it’s muscle or nerve tissue that’s responsible for the development of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. 

Professor David Brook and his research team will investigate how useful a particular group of antibiotics is in reducing symptoms of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) at the molecular level. If successful, the researchers will set up a clinical trial to test it on people with DM1.  

Dr Stephanie Duguez and her research team will be working to improve the diagnosis and measuring of the progression of neuromuscular conditions such as spinal muscular atrophy, by developing blood tests that can detect specific molecules (called sphingolipids) — amounts of which differ between people with a muscle-wasting condition and those who do      not have a muscle-wasting condition. 

Professor Thomas Gillingwater and colleagues previously developed gene therapy to treat X-linked spinal muscular atrophy (XL-SMA). They were unable to test this due to the lack of animal models. In this project, the researchers will characterise a newly generated mouse model ‒ much needed to test new treatments for XL-SMA. 

Dr Nathan Hodson and his PhD student will investigate the metabolism of people with BMD and examine if increased protein intake will benefit their physical strength and quality of life.

Professor Chris Clark will use an MRI technique called the Dixon method to measure the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy by looking at the water and fat content in the muscles of people with the condition. 

Dr Robert Pitceathly will use a special MRI to measure how muscles use oxygen in people with primary mitochondrial myopathy. Ultimately this approach could help diagnose primary mitochondrial myopathy, which has proved challenging to date. 

Kate Adcock, Director of Research and Innovation at Muscular Dystrophy UK said: 

We’re really pleased that this year our research grant funding reaches out across the UK, to institutes in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Helping us to go further in funding groundbreaking research and changing the lives of people living with muscle wasting conditions.

Read about all the research projects we fund

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