UAB to partner with Harvard Medical and Mt. Sinai on 5-year study

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – UAB's Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics has announced it will be receiving more than $1.5 million as part of a five-year study with Harvard Medical School and Mt. Sinai Medical Center. The purpose of the study is to fully research Dystonia, a condition that affects nearly half a million Americans.

Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily. The involuntary muscle contractions force the body into repetitive and often twisting movements and awkward, irregular postures. It can affect the hands, feet, neck or other parts of the body. It may be genetic in origin or appear spontaneously, and dozens of diseases and conditions include dystonia as a major symptom.

"Our research will focus on a gene, DYT1, that we know is associated with inherited early-onset dystonia," said David Standaert, MD., Ph.D., director of CNET and principal investigator of the study. "This study will help us understand how DYT1 causes dystonia, and it will give us potential targets for new therapeutic approaches in DYT1 and other forms of dystonia."

According to Standaert, UAB has about 300 dystonia patients at the Division of Movement Disorders.

There is no cure for dystonia, but there are treatment options, including the use of botulinum toxin and other medications. Dystonia affects men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds, causing varying degrees of disability and pain, from mild to severe.