UC Davis/Chile research targets muscle disease

Keith Baar’s laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior is beginning a collaboration on inherited muscle disease with at team at the University of Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile supported by an anonymous donation to the Chilean university.

The project will focus on disorders related to desmin, a protein within muscle that transmits force, said Baar, associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences.

Keith Baar studies how muscle and connective tissue grow and function.

Keith Baar studies how muscle and connective tissue grow and function.

Muscles that lack desmin due to a genetic defect are unable to transmit force and as a result get injured more easily and over time get more connective tissue, he said.

Muscle strength and size is closely related both to longevity and quality of life as we age, Baar said. Conditions that weaken the muscles – including inherited disorders (like desminopathies and dystrophy), cancer and aging – all share common properties, he said.

“If we can find ways to build or retain muscle, we can help people lead longer, happier and more productive lives,” he said.

Baar’s partner in the project is Professor Herman Zbinden of the University of Finis Terrae, a private university in Chile with a focus on exercise and muscle physiology.

The two-year project will support a postdoctoral researcher, who will divide their time equally between Santiago and Davis. It will also enable Chilean researchers to spend time at UC Davis learning techniques and conducting experiments in Baar’s laboratory.

Baar’s Functional Molecular Biology Lab works on the molecular biology of muscles and skeletal tissues, including growing new tissues in the lab.

More information: Story from University of Finis Terrae (in Spanish)

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