Baltimore, Md. – According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in every 3,600 male infants are born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a devastating, fatal muscle disease. As researchers continue to study strategies to combat the disease, the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) is pleased to announce that Chris Ward, PhD, associate professor, has joined the fight.
The NIH has presented Ward with a two-year research grant to investigate this debilitating disease. DMD is caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene, resulting in the absence or reduction of the dystrophin protein. In individuals with this genetic disorder, skeletal muscles become fragile and are easily damaged. Currently, gene-based treatments targeting the replacement of the dystrophin gene or the enhancement of dystrophin expression have not yet reached therapeutic effectiveness.
“There are currently no effective treatments for patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” Ward said. “We are seeking to identify novel molecular pathways that can be therapeutically targeted to slow the disease’s progression until a genetic cure is realized.”
At this time, research efforts are focused on identifying critical events that contribute to muscle damage and injury as a result of DMD. Ward and his research team have discovered a new signaling pathway  that links mechanical stress during muscle contraction to calcium and reactive oxygen signaling dysregulation in DMD heart and skeletal muscle . With this new-funded study, Ward and his colleagues seek to discover the mechanisms to explain this mechanical dysregulation in DMD muscle. Identifying these mechanisms will enable Ward’s team to design interventions that can be used in clinical trials in their quest to halt the progression of this devastating disease.
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The University of Maryland School of Nursing, founded in 1889, is one of the oldest and largest nursing schools, and is ranked eleventh nationally. Enrolling nearly 1,700 students in its baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs, the School develops leaders who shape the profession of nursing and impact the health care environment.