The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the University of South Carolina have been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant to study muscular dystrophy in the state.

Muscular dystrophy is a rare, genetic disease which causes muscles to slowly deteriorate over time. The state health department does not know how many South Carolina residents live with this condition.

"This funding gives South Carolina a wonderful opportunity to investigate not only how many South Carolinians are affected by muscular dystrophy, which we do not currently know, but more importantly how access to medical care and the quality of the medical care received by these individuals and families might be improved state-wide," said Michael Smith, a DHEC epidemiologist, in a prepared statement.

DHEC will hire a project coordinator and two nurses for data collection. The USC Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health will hire a research coordinator for the project.

The departments will receive $500,000 a year to fund the project for five years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.