Therapeutic potential of skeletal muscle plasticity and slow muscle programming for muscular dystrophy

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
1
Number of Master Places Available
1
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Gordon Lynch gsl@unimelb.edu.au Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Justin Hardee
Dr Rene Koopman

Summary Skeletal muscle is essential for survival. Not only is muscle the vital organ for movement but the diaphragm muscle sustains life by inflating the lungs for breathing. Skeletal muscle is also an endocrine organ that contracts and releases hormones and factors that communicate with other body tissues to sustain life.

Project Details

Skeletal muscle is essential for survival. Not only is muscle the vital organ for movement but the diaphragm muscle sustains life by inflating the lungs for breathing. Skeletal muscle is also an endocrine organ that contracts and releases hormones and factors that communicate with other body tissues to sustain life. Skeletal muscle accounts for half a person’s body mass yet we take for granted its crucial role in our health and lifestyle. Many diseases and conditions are linked with changes in muscle structure and function, including: ageing and frailty; cancer; muscle injury, sepsis and other forms of metabolic stress; nerve injury; disuse through inactivity and microgravity; burns; and different forms of muscular dystrophy. These conditions are major health problems globally and contribute to a large burden of disability and suffering. Tackling these muscle-related health conditions requires a coordinated research effort from discovery biology to understand disease mechanisms and translational approaches to take these discoveries from bench to the clinic. Researchers in the Centre for Muscle Research seek to understand the mechanisms that regulate muscle growth, wasting and metabolism, and to develop new approaches for preventing or treating muscle related conditions, utilising the latest techniques in biology and biomedicine. We also consider skeletal muscle in the context of other diseases, such as heart and cardiovascular diseases, cancer and osteoporosis. We are interested in understanding muscle development and growth, injury and repair, studying the biology and metabolism of muscle stem cells and their commitment to becoming functional muscle fibres. Our researchers design, manufacture and utilise viral vectors to alter gene expression in mouse models of disease and interrogate cellular mechanisms of muscle adaptation, techniques that provide a unique combination of speed, precision and efficacy not achieved through other approaches. The Centre for Muscle Research offers a wonderful training environment for studying muscle biology in health and disease and exceptional career-training opportunities for Honours, Masters and Ph.D. students. 

 

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating, life-limiting, muscle disease that causes progressive, severe muscle wasting in boys and young men. There is currently no cure. A potential therapy may come from altering muscle phenotype based on slower, more oxidative muscle fibres being better protected from the dystrophic pathology than faster, more glycolytic muscle fibres. Muscle plasticity can be achieved through exercise and/or through well described pharmacological approaches like activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Physical activity has many beneficial effects on muscle health but unfortunately many patients simply cannot exercise, especially those with DMD. Modulating muscle activity patterns through low-frequency electrical stimulation (LFS) protocols could mimic the benefits of exercise and promote a slow muscle phenotype. No studies evaluating the therapeutic merit of LFS have been conducted on the accepted mouse models of DMD nor have they determined whether muscle wasting can be attenuated or reversed. Similarly, no studies have examined the therapeutic merit of LFS in conjunction with AMPK activators. These studies are essential for enhancing the clinical translation to improve patient quality of life. 




Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


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