Muscular dystrophy

23
Aug 2016
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Dr. Michael Rudnicki

Ottawa researcher receives $4.9 million grant

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Congratulations to Dr. Michael Rudnicki at The Ottawa Hospital who has been awarded $4.9 million to further his research into stem cells and muscle regeneration.…

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Rudnicki at The Ottawa Hospital who has been awarded $4.9 million to further his research into stem cells and muscle regeneration.

Dr. Rudnicki, who is also Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network and a University of Ottawa professor, received the grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of its Foundation funding competition to provide the country’s top health researchers with stable, long-term support.

His colleague Dr. Lynn Megeney also received funding, under CIHR’s Project competition, to study heart muscle regeneration and remodeling.

Dr. Rudnicki is one of the world’s leading researchers in stem cells and muscle regeneration. Last fall, his lab published a paper in Nature Medicine that could completely alter perceptions on how Duchenne muscular dystrophy happens — linking it to intrinsic defects in the function of muscle stem cells

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17
Nov 2015
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From right, Will Wang, Caroline Brun, Dr. Michael Rudnicki and Dr. Nicolas Dumont

Canadian reseachers deliver another game-changer

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Within the space of two weeks, two Canadian scientists have unveiled game-changing research into stem cells — providing further proof of Canada’s prominent position in the field.…

Within the space of two weeks, two Canadian scientists have unveiled game-changing research into stem cells — providing further proof of Canada’s prominent position in the field.

On November 5th, the University of Toronto’s Dr. John Dick published a paper in Science that has researchers around the world rethinking how human blood gets made.  Dr. Dick’s team showed that the traditional understanding of blood production is wrong and that stem cells drive production of different kinds of blood cells much earlier than previously thought. This has huge implications for future treatments for blood-based cancers. We blogged about it here.

Yesterday came news that a University of Ottawa team led by Dr. Michael Rudnicki published a paper in Nature Medicine that could completely alter perceptions on how Duchenne muscular dystrophy happens — linking it to intrinsic defects in the function of muscle stem cells.

Affecting about one in about 3,600 boys, Duchenne muscular dystrophy occurs when genetic mutations deplete production of dystrophin protein, causing muscles to deteriorate.

According to an Ottawa Hospital Research Institute release, dystrophin was thought to be a simple structural protein found only in muscle fibres. The Ottawa team discovered that muscle stem cells also express the dystrophin protein. Without it they can produce only one-tenth the number of muscle precursor cells needed to generate functional muscle fibre.

Dr. Nicolas A. Dumont and Yu Xin (Will) Wang are co-lead authors on the paper. that also showed that dystrophin is a key piece of the molecular machinery that enables muscle stem cells to function.

“Muscle stem cells that lack dystrophin cannot tell which way is up and which way is down,” said Dr. Rudnicki. “This is crucial because muscle stem cells need to sense their environment to decide whether to produce more stem cells or to form new muscle fibres. Without this information, muscle stem cells cannot divide properly and cannot properly repair damaged muscle.”

Dr. Rudnicki was featured in many news reports about the discovery, including this feature by CBC.

 

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15
Sep 2014
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Dr. Michael Rudnicki

Why does it take longer to heal as we age?

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When we’re young, we bounce back from injury fairly quickly. As we age, we lose that capacity to rebuild our muscles and get back in the game.…

When we’re young, we bounce back from injury fairly quickly. As we age, we lose that capacity to rebuild our muscles and get back in the game.

The question is, why? New research into muscle stem cells is helping solve the puzzle.

Working with mice, a team led by Dr. Michael Rudnicki, senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), found that as muscle stem cells age, their functionality is compromised by increased activation of a signalling pathway called JAK/STAT that transmits information to cells from surrounding tissue.

“What’s really exciting to our team is that when we used specific drugs to inhibit the JAK/STAT pathway, the muscle stem cells in old animals behaved the same as those found in young animals,” Dr. Rudnicki, who is a member of our Foundation’s Board of Directors, explained in an OHRI media release.  “These inhibitors increased the older animals’ ability to repair injured muscle and to build new tissue.”

The findings were published last week in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine.

According to the media release, the stem cells aren’t getting the message to maintain their populations. As we age, the JAK/STAT pathway gets busier, altering how muscle stem cells, called satellite cells, divide and reducing the number of regenerating cells. This, in turn, reduces our capacity to repair and rebuild muscle.

While this is early stage research, the implications are exciting.  It opens up the possibility of developing JAK/STAT inhibiting drugs to treat muscle-wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

The next step is looking for less toxic molecules — the drugs used in this study are commonly used for chemotherapy — that could have the same effect.

For more information about stem cells and muscular dystrophy, click here.

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