ARRA to Help First-Time Grantee Unravel Muscle Cell Development Mechanisms

With her first grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Lisa Maves, Ph.D., of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is on a mission: to tease out the mechanisms that turn muscle precursor cells into skeletal muscle fibers, which allow humans to run, play instruments, and create great artwork. Dr. Maves, who as a staff scientist must obtain her own funding, credits the financial assistance of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with not only allowing her work to move forward, but with “saving” her career.

For skeletal muscle fibers to develop and regenerate, their precursor cells must differentiate, or become specialized, by undergoing a particular biological transformation. Defective mechanisms in the process, however, can lead to such musculoskeletal conditions as muscular dystrophy and muscle tumors. Dr. Maves’ work aims to identify the molecular mechanisms that drive the successful transformation process. Understanding—and ultimately controlling—these mechanisms, she says, could be useful in developing treatments for some muscle disorders.

Dr. Maves’ ARRA grant, funded through NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, will extend her previous research in this area. Earlier, she had found that certain proteins called Pbx proteins were needed to produce particular kinds of skeletal muscle cells in zebrafish embryos. The new ARRA support will allow her to see if the Pbx proteins produce the same specificity in mouse embryos.

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The activity above is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the National Institutes of Health's ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit

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