Researcher Wins Grant to Battle Muscular Dystrophy

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Harry W. Jarrett, PhD, UTHSC molecular sciences professor, was awarded two grants to study muscular dystrophy and the regulation of genes.

Harry W. Jarrett, PhD, University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) molecular sciences professor was awarded two grants to study muscular dystrophy and the regulation of genes. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) awarded Dr. Jarrett a three-year $270,000 grant and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded him for a five-year $1 million grant.

Dr. Jarrett explained that the MDA research will focus on determining the function of a protein complex known as the “Dystrophin Glycoprotein Complex” (DGC). “We suspect that DGC signals the muscle cells to grow, and in the absence of it, when the complex is defective in muscular dystrophy, the cells die. Over the next three years, we will investigate if this hypothesis is true. If it is, the discovery could lead to better treatments for muscular dystrophy,” Dr. Jarrett said.

Working for nearly 16 years to understand how a group of proteins (called transcription factors) affect gene regulation, Dr. Jarrett’s lab is also focusing on improving the ways in which transcription factors are purified. Using a new technique, called proteomics, the NIH grant will allow the researchers to identify each protein which activates or inhibits a gene.

Dr. Jarrett commented, “This will be the first time scientists can know all of the fine details of this process. The results of this research may lead to a better understanding of how cells become unique as individual genes are turned on and off.”

Earning his PhD from the University of North Carolina in biochemistry, Dr. Jarrett went on to complete postdoctoral fellowships at the Mayo Clinic and the University of California at San Diego. Prior to joining the UTHSC faculty, he was an associate professor of biology at Purdue University School of Science.