Each year MDF awards grants to postdoctoral fellows to encourage research in the management, treatment and cure of DM. We’re happy to announce this year’s award recipients: Dr. Jintang Du of The Scripps Research Institute and Dr. Yao Yao of The Rockefeller University. They will each receive $100,000 over two years, in two annual payments of $50,000.
Dr. Du’s research will seek to develop DNA-binding Py-Im polyamides (macromolecules with repeating units) to bind specific, identified CTG-CAG triplet repeats that cause DM1. Dr. Du and his lab partners have established that a specific Py-Im polyamide targeting CTG-CAG triplicate repeats is able to virtually abolish nuclear foci in patient cells. The molecule does not affect genes with short, non-pathogenic CTG/CAG repeats. Dr. Du will also investigate the pharmacokinetics, maximum tolerated dose and tissue distribution of the most effective molecules. Studies will be conducted on mouse models.
Dr Yao’s research involves stem cells, and will seek to understand how pericytes (multipotent stem cells) can be used to treat DM. His research project will include investigating how laminin, which covers pericytes (stem cells) in normal conditions but degrades in disease conditions, affects specific functions of these stem cells. To this end, Dr. Yao will use a laminin-deficient mouse model he has developed, which shows severe muscular dystrophy soon after birth, similar to what is observed in congenital myotonic dystrophy. In addition to understanding the role of laminin on pericyte stem cell health and function, Dr. Yao will also investigate the mechanisms that drive laminin loss, and attempt to identify targets to control pericyte stem cell function and laminin loss in order to treat myotonic dystrophy and other muscular dystrophies.
Since 2009, MDF has been committed to increasing the number of investigators focused on DM research. To date, MDF Fellows have gone on to attract additional research funding from organizations such as the NIH, have helped influence interest in DM research at major pharmaceutical companies, and have risen to senior positions at academic and clinical settings across the US.
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Du and Dr. Yao on their awards and thanking them for the work they do to help us work toward Care and a Cure!