Cure SMA Grants $50,000 to Posture and Breathing Research

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Dr. Martin Lemay

Dr. Martin Lemay

A research project dedicated to the posture and breathing of patients who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been awarded a $50,000 grant from Cure SMA. The grant awarded to Martin Lemay, PhD, is the last to be granted from a $230,000 clinical care funding program made available to the research community by the non-profit organization, whose main goal is to support research to find effective treatments and a cure for SMA.

Lemay, who is a professor of kinesiology at the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada and a pediatric rehabilitation investigator at Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Center (CHU Sainte-Justine), will analyze the combination of specific training exercises for posture, as well as a breathing technique. The main purpose is to understand if the two are able to alleviate the breathing difficulties commonly experienced by SMA patients, which can led to serious complications.

The professor is determined to develop novel and sensitive methods of evaluation and treatment for children who suffer from SMA. He is particularly focused on children since it is common they adopt an incorrect posture that increases breathing difficulties, and he expects to provide a novel and effective therapeutic option for physicians to implement in SMA pediatric patients.

Dr. Lemay will conduct postural training to trunk muscles and a technique of breath stacking, which supports the clearance of secretions in the lungs within 12 weeks, to understand its impact in the respiratory function. The study will include children who suffer from SMA type II and SMA type III, and will evaluate respiratory parameters of posture, strength and quality of life both before and after the training.

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The study is based on the results of a preliminary investigation conducted in 2009 at the rehabilitation center that assessed a postural therapy specific to trunk muscles, which included three children who suffered from SMA type II and III. The therapy was conducted for eight weeks and revealed promising outcomes, such as increased abdominal strength allowing a stronger expiration.

“Lower pelvic tilt, a more symmetric posture in quiet sitting as well as better chest mobility were also observed and resulted in better breathing,” explained Dr. Lemay in an interview to Cure SMA. “Overall, improvement in respiration, posture and trunk mobility significantly improved quality of life. Postural training has been used in the last few years in our rehabilitation center with great success. However, this approach has yet to be validated with a large number of patients with SMA.”

“We have recently evaluated the impact of aquatic training and showed improvements in respiratory function, strength and range of motion of children with SMA. We have also recently identified markers of fatigue in children with neuromuscular diseases such as SMA that could be used to better monitor the effects of fatigue in these children. Eventually, we would like to create and to validate a questionnaire for monitoring fatigue in children with SMA,” added the investigator.

The clinical care research grant was funded by the organization Families of SMA Canada, which works in collaboration with Cure SMA to support research and improve the lives of SMA patients. The organization also recently expanded its research program by providing an additional $315,000 in funding to support drug discovery at the California Institute of Biomedical Research (CALIBR). The grants aim to accelerate a research project led by Peter G. Schultz and focuses on the enhancement of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein levels.