Searching For A Cure

1 decade 7 months 3 weeks ago Monday, October 29 2007 Oct 29, 2007 Monday, October 29, 2007 1:25:34 AM CDT October 29, 2007 in News

Luke Beffa is doing much more than a project for chemistry class. He's part of a project trying to improve the lives of those with the degenerative muscle disease.

"There's a lab in Italy that works on muscular dystrophy therapy in dogs, and they're interested in getting the antibody. There's a lab in Spain, and there's labs across the country in the United States that are waiting for me to get done with this," Beffa said.

The research uses adult stem cells taken from the skin of dogs. It's the first of its kind in the world, and the information found in dog cells is more advanced than previous studies using mice.

"The end goal is to find something that's a useful therapy for the human disease. You want an animal model that will track the human disease as faithfully as you can," MU Bio Sciences' Dawn Cornelison said.

MU's College of Arts and Sciences gave the project start-up money but it hasn't received any other outside funding. The research team has been working for the last year and a half and hopes to make an antibody within the next month. It could mean a lot for a terminal disease currently without a cure.

"The hope is to prolong the quality of life. A lot of times, muscular dystrophy families will come and say 'If I had one more day with my child out of a wheelcheir, that would be a blessing,'" Beffa said.

One in 2,500 American boys are born with muscular dystrophy. It's a disease that robs victims of their mobility and is eventually fatal. Scientists and doctors have been searching for a cure for decades.

As for Beffa, he's starting medical school - but another MU student, Zach Berg, will head up the project in his place.

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