On the sixth day of Christmas MND research gave to me: Blog a Day 2014

“On the sixth day of Christmas MND research gives to you… on the SIXTH month of 2014 we wrote a Blog a Day, and you can still read them all online today.”

Stem cell-derived human motor neurones are being used by researchers to understand more about MND (image courtesy of Dr Scaber, University of Oxford)

Stem cell-derived human motor neurones are being used by researchers to understand more about MND (image courtesy of Dr Scaber, University of Oxford)

The sixth month of the year is June, which is also MND Awareness month. During 2014 we brought you a blog a day (sometimes two) during the month of June,

Ranging from research updates to experiences of getting involved in research, we covered the variety of research funded by the Association and the work of the Research Development team.

Dr Jakub Scaber’s blog post on stem cells was the top-rated blog post of the month, with an impressive image of stem cell-derived motor neurones.

Click here to read all the Blog a Day posts

On the fifth day of Christmas MND research gave to me: 5+1 steps trigger MND

 “On the fifth day of Christmas MND research gives to you… FIVE +1 triggers believed to cause MND”

Under the leadership of Prof Neil Pearce at Prof Ammar Al-Chalabi, researchers have used a mathematical approach previously used by cancer researchers to explain why MND is an adult-onset disease, and why it varies (even within families).

The researchers found that MND is caused by a sequence of six different events (5+1 as the equation states!) over a lifetime. Each event is a step towards developing MND, until the last one results in disease.

equation

Prof Al-Chalabi said: “The next stage is to try to identify the steps, because this will help us understand what causes MND, help us to design treatments, and could help with reducing the risk of developing MND in the first place.”

Click here to read more about this mathematical approach to MND

On the fourth day of Christmas MND research gave to me: a new stem cell research project

“On the fourth day of Christmas MND research gives to you… on the FOURTH month of 2014, we announced that we’ll fund an exciting new stem cell project”

Prof Linda Greensmith, University College London

Prof Linda Greensmith, University College London

During our April Biomedical Research Advisory Panel Meeting we agreed to fund seven new MND research projects. These projects included Prof Linda Greensmith’s research on Restoring muscle function with transplanted stem-cell derived motor neurones.

Based at University College London, this study will use stem cell technology to restore muscle function in a mouse model of MND. The researchers will transplant stem-cell derived motor neurones and then guide them to where they’re needed using light.

Prof Greensmith and her team aim to restore function to the muscles that are responsible for breathing and develop an optical stimulator, which can then be implanted into the body to stimulate the transplanted cells for long periods of time. If successful, this technique could form the basis of future treatments that could potentially restore muscle function in MND.

Click here to read more about the research that lead to us funding this project

On the second day of Christmas MND research gave to me: Two new inherited MND genes

Boxing day is here, there’s still some leftover turkey but let’s not forget… it’s the second day of Christmas!

“On the second day of Christmas MND research gives to you… TWO new inherited MND genes”

dna2014 saw the discovery of two inherited MND genes, the first being MATR3 in March and the second being TUBA4A in October. We will be discussing TUBA4A in a later blog post, but for now, here’s what we know about MATR3:

The MATR3 inherited MND gene discovery has provided us with further evidence that abnormal RNA processing is involved in MND.

The MATR3 protein, which is produced from the MATR3 gene, is commonly found in the nucleus or ‘control centre’ of the cell and is involved in the processing of RNA (the cell’s copy of DNA that is responsible for making new proteins). RNA processing has been previously associated with other inherited MND gene mutations (eg TARDBP and FUS). The MATR3 mutation also affects this process, adding more evidence to the role of abnormal RNA processing in MND.

Click here to read more about MATR3 here

On the first day of Christmas MND research gave to me: One Vision, a world free from MND

We would like to wish all our MND Research blog readers a very merry Christmas. To celebrate, we’re posting a short blog during each of the twelve days of Christmas to highlight what we’ve achieved this year in terms of MND research.onevision

“On the first day of Christmas MND research gives to you… ONE vision, a world free from MND” 

The Association’s vision is a world free from MND and we are committed to funding 51 research projects, which aim to help us achieve this vision. This year we announced some big research projects, such as the UK Whole Genome Sequencing project. However, next year we hope to be able to fund even more research!

Click here to read about all the projects we’re committed to funding in Research Information Sheet E: Research we fund

Posters, posters!

During the 25th International Symposium on ALS/MND there were two dedicated sessions for researchers to view over 300 posters. These posters varied from brain imaging to therapeutic strategies. But what is a poster? In this blog I’ll explain more about the session, as well as highlight some of my personal favourites.

Dr Jakub Scaber next to his poster in Brussels

Dr Jakub Scaber next to his poster in Brussels

A biomedical or clinical poster, is in many ways, like an advertising poster. Researchers use colour and text to present their research in a visual way, to engage and discuss their work.

This year’s poster sessions during the symposium were extremely busy, with large crowds often surrounding just one poster and its presenter! The whole room was a real ‘buzz’ of excitement with poster presenters benefitting from the interest and discussion of their work from researchers around the world.

Our Lady Edith Wolfson Clinical Research Fellow, Dr Jakub Scaber (University of Oxford) said: “I didn’t expect such an interest in my work, I ended up being in discussions for well over half an hour – I didn’t even get chance to remove my coat! I really enjoyed the symposium and got to speak to a few more people than I did last year!” Continue reading

Is MND/FTD the same as FTD alone?

brain Association-funded researcher, Prof Julie Snowden from the University of Manchester was invited to present her research on MND and frontotemporal dementia at this year’s 25th International Symposium on ALS/MND. She is asking whether people living with MND and frontotemporal dementia develop a different form of dementia that is different to those with frontotemporal dementia alone.

In 2011, when researchers discovered the C9orf72 inherited-MND gene, it was also linked to the related neurodegenerative disease frontotemporal dementia (find out more about inherited MND here). This increasingly recognised form of dementia has different signs and symptoms to the more common Alzheimer’s disease, but is less understood.

Researchers are now studying these previously separate diseases together. By working collaboratively with dementia researchers, we are beginning to understand this gene and the link between the two diseases. But what precisely is this link? In the past there were distinct disorders? Prof Snowden answered these questions as thinking of MND and FTD as a spectrum.  Continue reading

Gastrostomy in MND: Progress in ProGas

9 bAs well as biomedical research, we fund healthcare research to lead to better symptom management and support for people living with MND. On the final day of the symposium, Dr Stavroulakis from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), presented results on his Association-funded research. 

In some people living with MND, the muscles involved in chewing and swallowing can become slow, weak and/or uncoordinated. This can cause difficulty when eating and drinking.  Continue reading

Science in neon flashing lights

The opening presentation of this morning’s session of the International Symposium on ALS/MND set the tone for the rest of the day – almost literally, it was as if there was a neon light outside the lecture theatre saying ‘exciting science being presented here’.

Stem cells to study electrical activity of neurones  Continue reading

Heads up! The Sheffield Support Snood

5 b (3)During the second day of the symposium Association-funded researcher, Dr Chris McDermott, presented his highly anticipated research on a new neck support for people living with MND.

Our healthcare research aims to lead to better symptom management and support for people living with MND. We know that neck weakness is an extremely distressing problem in MND and it is very difficult as a clinician to treat this.

Dr Chris McDermott from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) said that he wanted to address this problem by working with people living with MND to develop a solution.  Continue reading