A federal research grant and an award totaling $2.4 million that could lead to therapies to combat diseases like muscular dystrophy have been awarded to Hongmei Ren, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Wright State University.
Ren received an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and an Idea Development award from the Department of Defense to explore gene therapy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The awards were received in collaboration with Mark Rich, Ph.D., professor of neurology in the Boonshoft School of Medicine and professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology in the College of Science and Mathematics; and Andrew Voss, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences.
Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), which leads to a progressive physical disability immobility and premature death caused by dystrophin mutation. Muscle membrane leakage results in continued muscle degeneration and muscle wasting. Improving the integrity of muscle membranes may delay progression of the disease and extend the lifespan of patients.
Ren’s research focuses on lipid metabolism and muscle biochemistry and physiology.
Ren’s independent lab has contributed to an understanding of the critical role of lipin1 in skeletal muscle function, and her work has revealed that lipin1 regulates myogenesis, muscle regeneration and mitochondrial function. Her recent publication reveals that lipin1 is critical for the maintenance of membrane integrity and lipin1 deficiency alone leads to compromised muscle membrane integrity and myopathy.
“The research grants and awards will enable exploration of the mechanisms and functional analysis of lipin1 as a novel alternative or complementary gene therapy in dystrophic muscles,” said Ren.
The knowledge gained from Ren’s work may open new avenues of research in several related muscular diseases. And understanding how to improve muscle membrane integrity could lead to therapies that can combat diseases like muscular dystrophy.
Ren joined the faculty at Wright State in 2016, forming a research team with Rich and Voss.
“Wright State has an ideal research environment, especially in muscle research,” said Ren.