The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) has announced the latest research grant and fellowship awards to advance progress toward improved dystonia treatment options and ultimately a cure. Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder, affecting approximately 250,000 Americans and potentially millions worldwide.

“The DMRF prides itself in funding the most promising research and are gratified to see important discoveries as a result,” said DMRF President Mark Rudolph. “It’s exciting to see a new cycle of research projects announced and imagine what new insights will emerge.”

The DMRF supports research aimed at expanding the knowledge of the genetic, molecular, physiologic and pathologic basis of dystonia. The new 2023 grants are:

Neuroanatomical isolation of networks in dystonia through analysis of causal brain lesions
Daniel Corp, PhD, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia
The goal of this study is to reveal the anatomy of dystonia by analyzing causal links between symptoms and brain structures affected by lesions. This will ultimately identify targets for new brain stimulation methods.

Theta burst transcranial focused ultrasound as a novel treatment for cervical dystonia
Jean-Francois Nankoo, PhD, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
This project aims to explore the effects of a novel non-invasive brain stimulation technique that has the potential to be a safer, less costly, and more accessible alternative to deep brain stimulation.

Developing high-throughput assays to enable drug development for DYT1 dystonia
Christian Schlieker, PhD, Yale University, New Haven, CT
This project will use advanced molecular methods to develop new pharmacological approaches that disrupt the cellular cascade leading to neuronal dysfunction with the aim to select specific compounds with drug-like properties that may potentially be developed into dystonia drugs.

The DMRF is particularly committed to supporting young investigators pursuing dystonia-focused projects through research fellowships and to supporting the training of clinicians to improve treatment experience through the clinical fellowship program. The new 2023 research fellowships are:

The role of basal ganglia pathways engaged in skilled forelimb movement in a mouse model of DYT1 dystonia
Filipa França de Barros, PhD, Champalimaud Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal
The aim of the project is to quantify and manipulate the brain activity underlying a dystonic forelimb movement in mice. The results should facilitate targeting specific neuronal populations of the direct basal ganglia to produce more efficient therapies.

Spike-triggered adaptive closed-loop cerebellar deep brain stimulation for dystonia
Linda Kim, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Mahlon DeLong Young Investigator Award
Dr. Kim will test the hypothesis that the unique pathophysiological cerebellar neural signals in dystonia can serve as robust biomarkers for triggering an adaptable closed-loop deep brain stimulation response to restore movement with high precision.

One new clinical fellowship was awarded to:

Mariel Pullman, MD Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, NY Mentor: Susan Bressman, MD

Dr. Pullman’s fellowship will involve mentored involvement in research, extensive clinical exposure to the broad range of dystonia subtypes and all aspects of diagnosis and clinical management to establish her as a dystonia clinician and clinical-translational researcher.

In 2023, the Clinical Fellowship program is supported by grants from Ipsen and Merz.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advancing research for improved dystonia treatments and ultimately a cure, promoting awareness, and supporting the well-being of affected individuals and families.