The inaugural Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry, Peter L. Jones strives to cure FSHD in UNR Med

The Peter and Takako Jones Lab

Researchers wearing lab coats in laboratory

One of the most powerful and life-changing impacts that donor-funding has had during the Campaign for the New Nevada is through the establishment of the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry. Through the generosity of Mick Hitchcock, who has worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years, this tenure-track faculty position was created in the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. In 2017, UNR Med announced Peter L. Jones as the inaugural Hitchcock Chair. Jones came to Nevada with his wife and co-principal investigator, Takako, a research associate professor. The primary clinical research focus of the Jones Lab is facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), the most prevalent muscular dystrophy that afflicts men, women, and children alike.

When Jones brought his team of researchers to Nevada to continue his work, Hitchcock said of his appointment, "Dr. Jones' drive toward translating his ideas into clinical utility to improve the lives of patients impacted by FSHD is inspiring. It is also exactly the type of biochemical research that I had in mind when I established the endowed chair."

Since 2003, Jones has been investigating epigenetic dysregulation underlying FSHD pathogenesis. FSHD is a debilitating disease for which no cure or ameliorative treatment exists. To fill this need, the Jones Lab has created the first mouse models of FSHD that exhibit key aspects of disease pathology, invented a simple and reliable diagnostic test for FSHD, and identified promising potential therapies that are currently in preclinical testing. Jones also uses his expertise at the NIH Center for Scientific Review to evaluate federal research proposals targeting a wide range of neuromuscular diseases.

In addition to helping treat FSHD, the Jones lab is committed to spreading awareness and understanding of the disorder. Jones has been appointed to the FSH Society's Ambassador Program and combines his outreach efforts with the #CureFSHD campaign. He and the rest of his team are active public representatives and spokespeople for the FSH Society. Their efforts include generating public service and fundraising announcements, meeting with patients and their families, contributing meeting reports and articles, and moderating discussions with both patients and researchers regarding the details and implications of their work.

After arriving to campus, Jones and his team have secured additional funding for new research:

  • "Stryka-001 treatment in the FSHD-like mouse model"
    Co-PIs: Takako Jones, Ph.D., and Ryan Wuebbles, Ph.D. (Burkin lab), funded by the FSH Society
  • "Development of next-generation AAV vectors for effective CRISPR inhibition of FSHD"
    PI: Charis Himeda, Ph.D., funded by FSHD Canada Foundation
  • "New compound discovery for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy therapy"
    PI: Peter Jones, Ph.D., funded by the Chris Carrino Foundation for FSHD

They have also published two papers:

  • Charis Himeda, Ph.D. published a paper in Molecular Therapy identifying new therapeutic targets for FSHD. "Identification of epigenetic regulators of DUX4-fl for targeted therapy of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy." Molecular Therapy, 26(7):1797-1807. These have been licensed by Fulcrum Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Takako Jones, Ph.D. published her FSHD-like mouse model, which is the first of its kind. "A cre-inducible DUX4 transgenic mouse model for investigating facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy." PLoS One 13(2):e0192657.

Learn more about the research performed by Peter Jones and his team by visiting the Peter and Takako Jones Lab: http://med.unr.edu/jones-lab.

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