Stanford-led team receives $10 million award for myosin research

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team of scientists led by School of Medicine researchers JAMES SPUDICH, professor of biochemistry, and DANIEL BERNSTEIN, professor of pediatrics, that will try to gain insights into a common cause of heart failure.

Co-investigators on the grant are SEAN WU, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine; ALEXANDER DUNN, assistant professor of chemical engineering; and KATHLEEN RUPPEL, senior scientist in biochemistry.Stanford Medicine

The Stanford-led team — which also includes researchers from the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of Washington and the Institut Curie in Paris — will seek a deep understanding of exactly how minute changes within genes—and the resulting alterations in the proteins for which those genes are recipes—can give rise to complex disease profiles.

The grant came about as the result of a national competition, with each institution limited to a single submitted application. This granting mechanism was initiated in 2017 with the express intent, according to the NIGMS, of supporting projects that “address complex and challenging biomedical problems.” Spudich and Bernstein’s proposed project was selected through an internal review process that took place at Stanford. It was one of only three such proposals the NIGMS selected this fiscal year for grants totaling an estimated $27 million over a five-year period.

The team will focus on a particular protein, myosin, which is responsible for cell contraction in numerous tissues and organs, notably including skeletal muscle and the heart. Mutations in myosin have been implicated in a variety of cardiomyopathies, irregularities in heart-muscle function that affect one in every 500 people and are major causes of heart failure and sudden death. Myosin mutations can also cause skeletal muscle diseases that lead to impaired motor function.

Read more on the School of Medicine website.