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Muscular Dystrophy UK has announced that it is investing £1.3 million into 11 new research projects including one at the University of Oxford.

Woman working at lab bench © John Cairns

The leading charity for more than 110,000 children and adults in the UK, living with one of over 60 muscle wasting and weakening conditions will be funding two PhD studentships, two three-year project grants, three 12-month grants and four two-year project grants that aim to improve diagnosis, monitor progression, and test potential new treatments.

The research projects cover a range of different conditions including Becker muscular dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mitochondrial myopathy, myasthenia gravis, myotonic dystrophy type 1 and for the first time ADSSL1 myopathy and X-linked spinal muscular atrophy (XL-SMA).

Dr Maria Isabel Leite, at the University of Oxford, was one of the successful applicants to receive the three-year project grant. Dr Leite and her colleagues, including Dr Nicholas Sanderson, University of Basel, Dr John McConville, Queen's University Belfast and Dr Patrick Waters, University of Oxford, will be using the latest techniques to investigate proteins that trigger the immune response that leads to myasthenia gravis (MG), to develop a better understanding of the cause of the condition and to improve future treatments.

We will use genetics to look back into the evolutionary history of immune cells called B-cells in myasthenia gravis to understand how these B-cells became condition-causing. We believe this will help understand the cause of myasthenia gravis and therefore have the potential to improve treatments or prevent the condition. - Maria Isabel Leite

The charity's research grants now reach right across the UK with new funding awarded to researchers in Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Teesside and Ulster. The new grants bring the total number of research projects funded by Muscular Dystrophy UK to 43.

Kate Adcock, Director of Research and Innovation at Muscular Dystrophy UK said: 'Here at Muscular Dystrophy UK we're delighted to fund groundbreaking research to better understand the different muscle wasting and weakening conditions and lead us to new effective treatments.

"Researchers have made incredible advances that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago and we're proud to be able to support these new efforts in Oxford.'

As well as funding research, the charity also shares expert advice and support to live well now, works with the NHS towards universal access to specialist healthcare and campaigns for people's rights, better understanding, accessibility, and access to treatments.

The charity already has a strong history with the city, having organised the historic Bidwells Oxford Town and Gown 10k since 1982. 5,000 runners took part in the latest event in May raising over £200,000. Next year's event will take place in May 2024.

Find out more about Muscular Dystrophy UK's research projects.

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