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Faculty & Staff Honors

Florida Researcher Receives $7 Million for Imaging Studies in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

A new five-year, $7.15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will support the University of Florida’s continued study of MRI to track Duchenne muscular dystrophy disease progression.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects about one of every 3,500 to 5,000 boys born each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the incidence worldwide is likely the same. The disease causes the muscles that control movement to progressively weaken and lose the ability to regenerate, eventually replacing muscle tissue with fat and scar tissue. Because of muscle loss, many patients need a wheelchair by age 12.

In a previous multisite study funded by a $7.5 million NIH grant, UF researchers demonstrated that MRI technology provides a precise, noninvasive measurement of diseased leg muscle tissue in boys with Duchenne. MRI has the potential to offer rapid feedback on the effects of new therapies in clinical trials, allowing scientists to detect muscle changes from therapeutic treatments in as little as a few months, said lead investigator Dr. Krista Vandenborne, a professor and chair of the department of physical therapy in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Rather than waiting a year or two years, we can now assess in a matter of months whether a treatment is working,” she said. “From a drug development standpoint and for helping to move the field forward, MRI has had an enormous impact. I think everyone in the Duchenne community is now convinced of the importance of MRI.”

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