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FOEDRC Member Dr. Vitor Lira Receives New Grant from the National Institutes of Health to Study Molecular Regulation of Protein Turnover in Skeletal Muscle

December 2020

Dr. Vitor Lira Associate Professor of Health and Human Physiology and member of the FOEDRC was recently awarded a new grant from the National Institutes of Health in the amount of $563,723. The grant entitled: “Molecular regulation of protein turnover in skeletal muscle” will study an important condition that afflicts many individuals as they age, particularly those with diabetes.

Aging-related skeletal muscle atrophy and weakness, also referred to as sarcopenia, affects millions of people contributing to the development of several chronic conditions associated with poor health outcomes, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. Although sarcopenia remains poorly understood and lacks effective therapy, aged muscles manifest a problem of poor protein turnover or recycling which is called proteotoxicity. Dr. Lira’s team discovered that a protein known as ULK2 plays a very important role in modulating turnover and removal of defective proteins in skeletal muscle, and that the function of ULK2 is deficient in aged muscle.  They also will work out the details by which ULK2 will regulate other proteins that are required for muscle to turnover and how they degrade damaged proteins. By studying how ULK2 works, Dr. Lira’s group hopes to better understand how aging impairs protein turnover in muscle. These studies seek to identify new ways to prevent muscle atrophy and weakness that negatively impact the quality of life in the elderly population and particularly individuals with diabetes.

Join me in congratulating Dr. Lira on this achievement. Although, 2020 will go down in the record books as one of the most challenging years for all of us for many reasons, I am proud of the members of the FOEDRC who have continued to push the boundaries of discovery to make breakthroughs that will impact the lives of many with diabetes.