About Us

Previously known as the Center for Muscle and Muscle Disorders (CMMD) since 1996, the center's purpose has been to improve research, clinical and teaching activities related to muscle. In enhancing efforts and strengthening a collaborative, CMMD evolved in 2003 to form the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Center (MD Center) which has continued to grow and expand over the years. The center is part of the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota.

Paul and Sheila Wellstone

What we do

For the past 10 years, the center has co-sponsored the Annual Muscular Dystrophy Center Symposium that attracts more that 100 researchers and participants and features distinguished speakers that are recognized internationally.


MD Center faculty members have 20 NIH grants, 2 NIH training grants and more than $25 million in total direct costs for muscle related research. A prominent couple are: 

  • Training Program in Muscle ResearchDave Thomas, PhD-Principal Investigator, ongoing NIH NIAMS Sponsorship since May 2001.
  • Muscular Dystrophy Center Core LaboratoriesJames Ervasti, PhD-Principal Investigator, ongoing NIH NIAMS Sponsorship since August 2009


MD Center collaborates with other educational institutions, government agencies, private sectors and non-profit organizations to facilitate research, education, and service activities related to muscular dystrophies:

  • The largest T32 training program in the country for muscle research, supporting predoctoral, postdoctoral, and both clinical and basic trainees
  • Strong assistance of recruitments to Cardiology and Physiology (Garry, Metzger, Perlingiero, Kyba), and to ITN of a neurodegenerative investigator (Lee).
  • Three years of philanthropic (Marzolf) support for undergraduate and graduate school muscle trainees to support labs while feeding and supplementing our T32.
  • An IND for humans of a novel myopathy treatment first studied here in horses· Licensing of a high-throughput screen for intracellular calcium processing, to study its role in cardiac and skeletal muscle dysfunction and treatment1.
  • Collaboration with local resources as:  Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Gillette Children's Hospital, and University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview facilitating outreach and clinical services.


The MD Center membership includes 4 members in the University-wide Academy of Distinguished Teachers, and continues to prioritize educational programs. 

Our impact

Additional hallmark indicators of MD Center impact include:

  • A popular upper level course on muscle function and disease continues to grow (Biochem 5444, co-listed in IBP and BME) with 60-80 students/year
  • The NIH’s largest T32 grant for muscle trainees
  • Gregory Marzolf, Jr., Muscular Dystrophy Training Program – a partnership with the Marzolf Foundation, distributing currently $25K annually in competitive stipends for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral muscle research trainees, and organizing an annual symposium used to recruit new postdoctoral trainees
  • Introductory week (neuromuscular junction) of Itasca Neuroscience Courses
  • Annual Muscle Conference for trainees and a prominent external speaker
  • Annual laboratory short courses for Biomedical Device Industry
  • An ACGME neuromuscular training program – in development

Making a difference for muscular dystrophy

More than $60 million in grants and approximately 400 articles in the last 3 years indicates MD Center impact.

Although a product of faculty effort, it would be disingenuous to discount the MD Center’s role in fostering this output – even if only a fraction of this accomplishment is ascribable to the academic atmosphere created by its seminars, symposia, educational programs, core facilities, seed grants, clinical data base and specimen repository, the MD Center is clearly generating an exceptional return on institutional investment.

MD Center impact is further reflected by its selection as one of few US Centers to undertake multiple cutting-edge MD treatment trials (including 4 different gene therapies.

Learn more about the MD Center through this brochure: PDF icon about_the_md_center.pdf