Biology prof receives more than $1 million from CIHR for muscle research

Professor John McDermott, McLaughlin Research Chair in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science at York University, is the recipient of two grants valued at $584,060 and $530,600, to be awarded over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

mcdermott-bw-VMcDermott will use the funds to conduct research on muscle as part of the CIHR’s virtual research institutes, the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health & Arthritis and the Institute of Circulatory & Respiratory Health.

John McDermott

The first award will support McDermott’s research project investigating the function of a gene that regulates skeletal muscle growth. The award will help McDermott build on his present work to understand how the gene known as SMAD7, has the effect of regulating the growth of tissue on muscle cells and whether it fulfills the same function in living animals.

Observations of SMAD7 activity have been reproduced in the laboratory using cultured muscle cells and McDermott will research the impact of this activity in human health. It has been found that a variety of muscle diseases, cancer-related cachexia (wasting syndrome is loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness and significant loss of appetite) and age-related muscle wasting, result from a loss of muscle mass. McDermott is looking at SMAD7 as a possible therapeutic target to counteract the debilitating effects of muscle wasting.

The second award will support McDermott’s research project on the regulation and function of myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) proteins in cardiac and skeletal muscle. MEF2 proteins play an important role in cardiac and skeletal muscle development during embryogenesis.

MEF2 serves as a communication hub between signals from outside the cell and the control of gene expression within the cell nucleus, which is important for regulating key aspects of heart and skeletal muscle cell function. McDermott and his research team  will collaborate with other teams in Canada, the United Kingdom and and Korea, to gain a better understanding of the nature of these processes and how they can be brought to bear on regulating gene expression in the diseased heart during conditions such as heart failure and cardiac hypertrophy.

CIHR is the government of Canada’s health research investment agency. Its mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system.

For more information on Professor McDermott’s research, visit the McDermott Laboratory blog.