Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy Funds UCLA Project to Identify Genetic Changes that Affect the Severity of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Mar 01, 2013, 10:15 ET from Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy

HACKENSACK, N.J., March 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) will provide $100,000 to Dr. Stanley Nelson of the University of California, Los Angeles, to examine the genomes of 40 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Duchenne) who are either very mildly affected or very severely affected.  The goal is to identify changes in genes other than dystrophin that may affect the course of the disease.


"We know that even boys who have exactly the same mutation in the dystrophin gene can have different disease courses," said Dr. Nelson. "It is very likely that other mutations or DNA variants in different genes may play a role in addition to dystrophin."

Dr. Nelson will use a relatively new technique known as "exome sequencing" to look only at the parts of the genetic code that spell out the recipe for proteins, known individually as "exons."  Because the exons of the genome make up less than 1% of the total genetic material, this method provides a far more practical way to look at the coding regions (genes) for the about 20,000 human proteins without having to sequence the participants' entire genome.

For this project, Dr. Nelson will obtain blood samples primarily from boys and men participating in registries and other studies who have out-of-frame deletions or know they have Duchenne from a muscle biopsy data and have been identified as "outliers" for the speed at which the disease is progressing in the skeletal muscles—that is, they have very mild disease or very severe disease based on the age that the ability to walk was lost.  The work will be conducted within the Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at UCLA with additional analyses supported by the Genomics and Bioinformatics Core of the NIAMS-funded UCLA Muscular Dystrophy Core Center.

Information generated from this project may serve a number of important functions, including providing critical insight into biological functions that affect Duchenne progression; allowing clinical trial sponsors to select participants with more similar disease courses based on genetic data (to design smaller, faster, and more powerful trials); and identifying new targets for drug development.  It is also likely that some of the changes identified will be relevant to other forms of muscular dystrophy and muscle disease.

"The need to identify genetic modifiers is part of our strategic plan for research," said Sharon Hesterlee, PPMD's Vice President for Research. "We know this information may greatly speed the conduct of clinical trials by reducing the variability among participants in relation to other benefits.  We are pleased to be able to fund Dr. Nelson's work."

For more about Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy's grant program, as well as a comprehensive list of what we are funding, please visit

To inquire about participating in this research, please contact Dr. Nelson's office by calling 310-983-3402 or emailing at

About Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
Duchenne is a fatal genetic disorder that slowly robs young men of their muscle strength. Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) is the largest most comprehensive nonprofit organization in the United States focused on finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy—our  mission is to end Duchenne.

We invest deeply in treatments for this generation of young men affected by Duchenne and in research that will benefit future generations. We advocate in Washington, DC, and have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. We demand optimal care, and we strengthen, unite, and educate the global Duchenne community.

Everything we do—and everything we have done since our founding in 1994—helps boys with Duchenne live longer, stronger lives. We will not rest until every young man has a treatment to end Duchenne. Go to for more information or to learn how you can support our efforts and help families affected by Duchenne.

SOURCE Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy