Of Mice and Scientists: Joe Akmakjian Reports from the 2017 MDA Scientific Conference

Joe addressed the conference to thank researchers for their work.

I hate mice.

Rodents are my worst fear. I don’t know where this incapacitating aversion comes from, but this past week I found myself faced with the undeniable truth that these abominable vermin are actually working to save my life. OK, technically researchers in teams all over the world who are conducting MDA-funded studies are working to save my life — but the mice are helping too. That’s because, as I learned at the recent MDA Scientific Conference, almost all potential treatments for neuromuscular diseases begin with mouse studies.

During my time at the conference, I had the opportunity to interact with and talk to many talented researchers and clinicians about their work. As someone who could possibly benefit from their findings, I asked them what they wanted to say to individuals and families who could benefit from their work.

Researcher: Eric Wang

Studying: myotonic dystrophy

Academic affiliation: University of Florida

What he wants the MDA family members to know: “As a person in a family who is affected by the disease, I know it’s a really long road and it’s really hard. But there’s a lot of people around the world that are working really hard to try to figure out this problem and I really believe we’re going to figure it out.  And I think we’re going to do it soon. I don’t how long it’s going to take but there’s a lot of people working on it. It’s a very exciting time and I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have treatments in our lifetime for sure. Also, we love interacting with patients and families. The more that everybody knows and is educated about the work we’re doing, the more we understand the specific issues that people are facing, I think then the faster we’ll be able to work together to get to where we want to be in the near future.”


Joe and researcher Alessandro Magli

Researcher: Alessandro Magli

Studying: therapy protocols for muscle generation

Academic affiliation: University of Minnesota

What he wants the MDA family members to know: “I’d like to tell them that we are doing our best. I’m not sure if this is going to be the therapy that will help them, but I believe that this could be one possibility in the future.”


Researcher: Jennifer Tinklenberg

Studying: myostatin inhibitors

Academic affiliation: Medical College of Wisconsin

What she wants the MDA family members to know: “This is something that we’ve been working really hard on and are excited about. It’s really important to us that were able to meet the patients who our research might be helping so that we know exactly what they need from us and how we can help them.”

Most of the time the information I was exposed to at the conference went way over my head. Still, I found the conference to be very hopeful and exciting experience. It was an honor to meet the people who have made a career out of saving my life and the lives of the other individuals and families. Everyone connected to MDA should be excited to know that these researchers are actively sharing ideas and discussing ways to solve problems and find the solutions we’re all looking for.

Yay for science!