John Walton Muscular Dystrophy
Research Centre

Performing world-class translational research to bring diagnosis, care and therapy to people with neuromuscular disease

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Launched in November 2014, the Centre brings together and consolidates Newcastle's distinguished, international and world-leading record in research and care for neuromuscular diseases.

Our team, based at the Institute of Translational and Clinical Research, Newcastle University, and its associated hospitals, work together towards the development and application of genomic and translational medicine to improve the health outcomes of people living with neuromuscular diseases.

As a group we have developed a close and important link between research and clinical activities, and we actively pursue new partnerships with other stakeholders such as patient organisations, regulators and pharma.

The John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre (JWMDRC) is structured around four important Strands of activity; Clinical Care & Diagnostics, Clinical Research, Laboratory Research and Networking & Collaborations. All are strongly interlinked and the work across these teams is key to our success and impact in the neuromuscular field.

We are immensely proud to have continued to build, shape and develop this Centre's team of international experts and to be leading them now under the auspicious name of Lord John Walton, who first established a dedicated and integrated neuromuscular clinical and research unit at Newcastle Upon Tyne in the 1950s.

Latest News

The EJP-RD: building the rare diseases research ecosystem

We are thrilled to announce the publication of a new article highlighting the past 5 years of the European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases (EJP-RD)

July 4th, 2024


The first European LGMD2I/R9 Community Conference was held in May

The first European LGMD2I/R9 Community Conference was held in May in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

July 2nd, 2024


Jain Foundation’s 2024 Dysferlin Conference Awards

The Jain Foundation Conference was a great success for us this year, with the team being awarded for their work in the field of dysferlinopathy.

June 20th, 2024


Translational Research

Newcastle has a long history as a centre of international excellence in muscle disease diagnosis, care and research.

First established as the Muscular Dystrophy Laboratories at Newcastle General Hospital, the team here has grown over the years and now comprises a group of experts across many fields within muscular dystrophy who together form the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre.

Whilst we are structured around four core areas of clinical care & diagnostics, basic research, clinical research and networks & collaborations it is the significant and important level of collaboration and linkage between these areas that is responsible for the success of the team as a whole.

One of the great strengths of the Centre is its multidisciplinary and cooperative approach, both within the team at Newcastle and with other leading experts around the world.

Genetic neuromuscular disease includes some very rare conditions and it is through establishing these partnerships that the biggest strides towards improving diagnosis, care and treatment for patients can be made.

The John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre team are members of the MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, a joint enterprise between University College London and Newcastle promoting translational research in neuromuscular diseases. The MRC Centre is a major source of support for activity in Newcastle, including the MRC Centre Biobank and for activities in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It also funds several PhD and clinical students in various disease areas.

In addition to this the team has, in the past five years, trained more than 20 visitors from five continents. Thanks to extensive international networking, in recent years the Centre has also become recognised for its leadership in the rare disease field more broadly and has become part of major global rare disease initiatives including the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium.

Professor Volker Straub leads the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre and holds a joint appointment between Newcastle University and the NHS. With over 300 publications, Volker’s time is split between research and clinical commitments, all of which have a focus on neuromuscular disease whilst providing leadership across the five strands of the Centre.

Latest Publications

Start, switch and stop (triple-S) criteria for enzyme replacement therapy of late-onset Pompe disease: European Pompe Consortium recommendation update 2024

Eur J Neurol. 2024 Jun 14:e16383.

Muscle diffusion tensor imaging in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Muscle Nerve. 2024 Jun 14

Disease-associated comorbidities, medication records and anthropometric measures in adults with Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Neuromuscul Disorders 2024 May 14:41:8-19

Genome Sequencing for Diagnosing Rare Diseases

N Engl J Med. 2024 Jun 6; 390(21):1985-1997

Expert Panel Curation of 31 Genes in Relation to Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 May 6:2024.05.03.592369

Unravelling undiagnosed rare disease cases by HiFi long-read genome sequencing

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 May 4:2024.05.03.24305331

John Walton

Photo of Lord John Walton

Lord Walton’s contribution to the field of muscle disease research and patient care is enormous. He was a leading figure in the field for over 50 years and trained many of the current leaders in the neuromuscular field.

Born locally in Rowlands Gill, John Walton qualified from Newcastle Medical School in 1945, then part of the University of Durham. In 1959 he co-founded the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, now known as Muscular Dystrophy UK, of which he was Honorary Life President. He went on to become both a Consultant Neurologist and Professor of Neurology at Newcastle, and from 1971-1981 was Dean of Medicine at the University.

John Walton’s work in the 1950s was a milestone in the classification and description of muscular dystrophies as different entities. His landmark paper with Professor Nattrass in 1954 changed the research and diagnostic landscape for muscle disease.

It was John Walton’s pioneering work that saw his department at Newcastle first become recognised as a leader in neuromuscular disorders and established it as the internationally acclaimed centre for muscle disease research that it is today.

John Walton was awarded a Life Peerage, becoming Lord Walton of Detchant in 1989.

Sadly, Lord Walton passed away in April 2016.

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