Families for the Treatment of Hereditary MND (FaTHoM)

Scientists from the University of Oxford have set up ‘Families for the Treatment of Hereditary MND’ (FaTHoM), an initiative to bring together the community of families affected by inherited forms of MND. Their first meeting will take place in Oxford on Tuesday 18th April.

Most people living with MND cannot identify a relative who has also had the condition. However, around 5% of people with MND will have a family history of the disease, which is known as inherited or familial MND. This happens when a single faulty gene is passed down from parents to their children across number of generations.

Genes come in pairs and the probability of inheriting a faulty gene from an affected parent is 50:50 as we are just as likely to receive the other ‘healthy’ copy of that gene instead. Even if the faulty copy is the one passed on, development of the disease itself is not inevitable as it is based on other factors too (e.g. certain environmental and lifestyle influences).

Research has successfully identified several mutated genes responsible for inherited MND. The main ones are called: C9orf72 (found in 40% of familial cases), SOD1 (20%), TARDBP (<5%), FUS (<5%). Together these four account for 70% of cases. At present, it is not possible to identify the faulty gene in the remaining third of MND patients with a family history. Recognising these genes as responsible allows people already diagnosed with MND and who have a family history, to undergo testing to understand more about the cause of their disease. For researchers, understanding the molecular pathways controlled by these genes takes them closer to the targets needed for more effective treatments. It is hoped that such treatments might benefit all those living with MND, even without a family history of the disease.

If a person already diagnosed with MND is concerned about the possibility of a family history, and what that could mean for their relatives (in terms of inheriting the genetic code), they may wish to consider genetic testing for themselves. Choosing to be tested can be a difficult decision, as a positive result might have implications for other family members. Equally, having a test can be a useful way to provide other family members with valuable information to allow them to make decisions. Before any testing is undertaken, however, it is recommended that these issues are discussed in detail with a neurologist specialising in MND, or a clinical geneticist.

The FaTHoM initiative aims to provide information for people affected by inherited MND, including about how to participate in research. This first event is a meeting led by Professor Martin Turner and Professor Kevin Talbot, consisting of expert talks on key issues affecting such families. It is open to any person living with an inherited form of MND, and a close relative of those who have been affected by inherited forms of MND. To view the programme of the meeting or to register, visit this link or email lynn.ossher@ndcn.ox.ac.uk

For more information on inherited MND, please see our website or our range of information sheets for an overview of inherited MND, genetic testing, and options when starting a family.

We would like to thank Prof Martin Turner for his comments and revisions of this article. 

Focus on the research presented in posters in Dublin

Over 100 talks were given at this month’s International Symposium on ALS/MND in Dublin. There were also over 450 posters of research being presented too. Time in the conference programme was allocated on Wednesday and Thursday evening (day 1 and day 2 of the 3 day conference) to visit the posters – you might think that scheduled at the end of the day they would be less well attended – but not a bit of it! It was an extremely loud and buzzy part of the conference.

Below is a brief round-up of some of the posters that caught my eye. Continue reading

Prize winning posters in Dublin

As well as all the networking, debate and new information being shared, the International Symposium on ALS/MND is also a time to celebrate achievements by the giving of awards. The Biomedical and Clinical poster prizes are an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the excellent research and clinical practice being conducted by those early in their career.

Now in its fourth year we hope that the poster prizes will help give the winners career a boost, and give them the encouragement and motivation to continue in MND/ALS research.poster-prize-winners-low-res This year the Panel selected an international group of winners: Dr Albert Lee from Australia and Elsa Tremblay from Canada were jointly awarded the Biomedical poster prize and Ruben van Eijk from The Netherlands won the Clinical poster prize. Each winner received a certificate and a glass engraved paperweight.

The prize winning research ranged from understanding the consequences of a newly discovered gene mutation linked to MND, to why the junction between nerves and muscles is one of the earliest signs of motor neurone damage, to a new statistical analysis to make clinical trials quicker and more efficient. Below I’ve explained more about the research that the winners presented. Continue reading

Our Visit to a Brain Bank

Brain banks are a vital resource in MND research. The MRC London Neurodegenerative Diseases Brain Bank was established in 1989. It is part of King’s College London and King’s College Hospital, and is part-funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The new brain bank building at King's

The new brain bank building at King’s

After 18 months of planning, the bank has recently relocated into a bright terracotta building, fit with state-of-the-art equipment and plenty of space to teach in.

To celebrate the move, my research team colleague Martina and I attended their open day. We heard some interesting talks then got to meet the team, tour the labs, and even see a brain dissection! Here’s what we found out… Continue reading

What causes MND – an update from Dublin

What causes MND is the question that so many of us want to know. For the majority of people with MND we know that it is caused by a combination of many environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors, that gradually tip the balance towards someone developing MND. In the very first talk of the 2016 International Symposium on ALS/MND Joel Vermeulen from The Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University in The Netherlands gave us an update on research underway to understand the environmental and lifestyle contributions to why people develop MND. Continue reading

IPG Prize recognises young research talent

I firmly believe that the quality of research is only as good as the researcher doing it, which is why the MND Association places a lot of emphasis on providing opportunities to attract, train and retain the brightest and best investigators in the UK and Ireland to develop their careers in MND research. These range from our ‘entry level’ PhD Studentships through to our successful Clinical Fellowships (funded jointly with MRC) and our more recent Non-Clinical Fellowship programme, offering opportunities to outstanding young researchers at a variety of career stages.

It’s also one of the reasons why the Paulo Gontijo International Medicine prize, presented at the Symposium Opening Session, is always an early highlight for me. Continue reading

Welcome to the International Symposium on ALS/MND in Dublin

Today marks the beginning of the next year in MND research around the world, or at least it certainly feels like that! It is the first day of the three day, international MND research conference that the MND Association of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is immensely proud to organise. Continue reading

Using stem cell technology to understand more about how MND and FTD develop

The MND Association are funding Prof Kevin Talbot, Dr Ruxandra Dafinca (née Mutihac) and colleagues at the University of Oxford, who are investigating the link between the C9orf72 and TDP-43 genes in MND. We wrote about this research earlier in the year. As we’ve recently received their first year progress report we wanted to give you an update on what they’ve achieved. Continue reading

New fellowship to investigate muscle fasciculations

During Awareness month in June we reported on the work of Dr James Bashford at King’s College London, exploring new ways of measuring muscle fasciculations in people with MND. The results from the one year pilot study have shown a lot of promise, which has led to Dr Bashford recently being awarded a Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

A common symptom of MND is the ‘rippling’ of muscle under the skin, these are known as muscle fasciculations. Continue reading

AMBRoSIA – our biggest ever research project

The AMBRoSIA (A Multicentre Biomarker Resource Strategy In ALS) project is our biggest, most ambitious research undertaking to date. The project funding began in August, closely followed by being the focus of this month’s ‘Make Your Mark’ fundraising appeal. Here we explain more about what this flagship project is all about. Continue reading