CIHR Spring 2023 project grant success


Ottawa, Ontario — Tuesday July 25, 2023

Dr. Kyle Cowan has received $803,250 over five years as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Spring 2023 Project Grant competition. Dr. Cowan will further study the role of Pannexin 1 in skeletal muscle regeneration and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Ultimately, he hopes to translate his research into the development of new strategies to enhance skeletal muscle repair and improve the lives of DMD patients. As well as being a Scientist at the CHEO Research Insitute, Dr. Cowan is a pediatric surgeon at CHEO. Congratulations Dr. Cowan! 

The CHEO Research Institute had a success rate of 25% in this competition compared to the national average of 18%.  

Project: The role of Pannexin 1 in Skeletal Muscle Regeneration and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Amount/duration: $803,250 over five years 

Nominated Principal Investigator: Kyle Cowan 

Co-Applicants: Jasmin Bernard 

Overview: Skeletal muscle has an extraordinary capacity to regenerate in healthy individuals. However, there is a dramatic impairment in regenerative potential in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), resulting in significant muscle loss. DMD, the most common muscular dystrophy, has no effective therapy and results in premature death. Skeletal muscle regeneration depends on a type of cell called a satellite cell (SC). In response to injury, SCs quickly expand and differentiate into muscle cells to restore the damaged tissue. We have found that the channel protein pannexin1 (Panx1) is present in skeletal muscle and its SCs, and promotes muscle formation. Our data revealed that mice that do not have Panx1 have less SCs and display impaired skeletal muscle regeneration after injury. Notably, these effects were mainly seen in male mice. In order to clearly understand the role of Panx1 channels in skeletal muscle regeneration and in SCs, we will use male and female mice that have been genetically engineered to lack Panx1, either in their entire body or only in their SCs, and compare them to normal mice. Using mouse models of DMD, we have previously found that, as compared to healthy muscles, dystrophic muscles have much less Panx1. Muscle cells from DMD patients also show reduced PANX1 channel activity. Here, we will delineate the role of Panx1 in DMD using cells from DMD patients and our dystrophic mouse model engineered to lack Panx1. We will also investigate whether increasing Panx1 levels in muscle cells from DMD patients, as well as in muscles from dystrophic mice, improves muscle dystrophy. Through this research program, we will understand the function of Panx1 in skeletal muscle regeneration, its role in DMD progression, and examine the therapeutic potential of increasing Panx1 levels in dystrophic muscles. Ultimately, our goal is to translate this knowledge into the development of new strategies to enhance skeletal muscle repair and improve the life of DMD patients. 

View the complete list of the CIHR Project Grant: Spring 2023 results. 

Areas of Research