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Muscular dystrophy researcher gets significant new funding from a company seeking the best

Rita Perlingeiro, Ph.D. (Photo: Brady Willette)

Rita Perlingeiro, Ph.D., fields tough emails and phone calls every week—wrenching, emotional communications from the parents of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (MD), from relatives of adults with the limb-girdle form of MD, from friends anxious to know when the cure for MD is coming.

“I feel a lot of pressure,” admits Perlingeiro, a University of Minnesota scientist who has been focused on the use of stem cells to regenerate skeletal muscle tissue for almost a decade. “You want to give people hope that there’s a breakthrough coming, but you also don’t want to give them the impression that it’s coming tomorrow.”

Earlier this year, though, she got a much different sort of email: The CEO of MyDirectives.com didn’t ask “when,” but rather “what” Perlingeiro needed to move her research forward.

“We are focused 24/7 on the success of our new business,” says Jeff Zucker, cofounder of MyDirectives.com, a free medical directives registry. “But when someone in our business family was diagnosed with a rare form of MD, we went into overdrive to find the most innovative researchers in the field. We discovered that Rita’s research was so unique [that] it just might yield extraordinary results.”

Shortly after meeting with Perlingeiro to learn more about her work, the MyDirectives.com team made a significant, multiyear gift commitment to help kick Perlingeiro’s research on limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A into high gear.

Perlingeiro’s research has already shown that, using skin cells, scientists can make muscle cells that have improved function in mice with MD. But will it work in humans? That’s the next step.

Perlingeiro says she feels honored to have received support from MyDirectives.com. The gift will allow her lab to undertake an innovative project involving skin cells reprogrammed to become stem cells, genetic correction, and the regenerative potential of the resulting skeletal muscle cells.

“Rita’s passion is contagious, and her belief that there is an answer for MD in the reprogramming of stem cells makes perfect sense,” says Zucker. “We’re thrilled to know that our gift might help find that answer.”

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