Feb 1, 2024

Federal funding boost for muscular dystrophy project

Faculty, Research Funding
Penney Gilbert and Bryan Stewart on stairs of a University of Toronto building
Johnny Guatto
Professors Penney Gilbert and Bryan Stewart
By Carla DeMarco

Reposted from the University of Toronto Mississauga.

UTM Biology prof and collaborator at U of T’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering continue their work to unlock some of the mysteries that come at the intersection of muscles and the nervous system 

The University of Toronto Mississauga and the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre have been awarded $925,650 in grant funding for the next five years by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Led by Principal Investigators Professors Bryan Stewart and Penney Gilbert, this substantial CIHR funding for their project “Evaluating the nerve-muscle connection as a Duchenne muscular dystrophy therapeutic target,” marks a new chapter in the fight against muscular dystrophy.

“Developing new systems to understand nerve-muscle biology in culture is crucial for advancing our understanding and treatment of muscle diseases,” says Stewart, a professor of physiology in UTM’s Department of Biology.

The project focuses on developing methods to simulate the natural state of muscle development and function within a culture system. This innovative approach is expected to further their team’s ability to study human nerve-muscle junctions and unravel the complexities of muscle diseases, particularly Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a severe form of the disease that leads to progressive muscle-fiber weakness and degeneration. 

Ultimately, the goal is to develop and refine genetic therapies, where potential drug treatments can be tested to support neuromuscular function.   

With this significant CIHR investment, the University of Toronto researchers are poised to make meaningful advances in the understanding and treatment of muscular dystrophy, potentially improving the lives of DMD patients worldwide and offering hope to those affected by this debilitating condition. 

Additionally, the continuity and stability provided by this grant are essential for attracting top-tier scientists and training students at U of T. 

“We are thrilled to receive this support from CIHR to continue our work on neuromuscular physiology,” says Stewart, who is enthusiastic to start the next phase of this ongoing collaboration with Gilbert.

“We have made some very important progress in the last few years, especially using stem cell technology to recreate complex tissues in culture. With this new round of funding, we’ll be able to continue and build on our research, and, moreover, the vast majority of grant funds will go directly to the salary and student stipends of the excellent personnel working in our labs, providing outstanding training opportunities for the next generation of researchers and reinforcing our contributions to cutting-edge research in DMD.”