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

The MND Researchers Bake off Champion!

As well as helping out with our ‘blog a day’ during MND Awareness Month, we also asked our researchers to get involved in ‘baking’ to become our first ‘MND Researchers Bake off Champion’. We received some great science-themed cakes, from zebrafish biscuits to a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance(NMR) machine cake!

Our Director of Research, Dr Brain Dickie said: “It was really tough to judge, they were all great entries! (might need to taste next year though…!). Of the seven entrants there was one that I think wins by a short head, scoring on appearance, originality and relevance to MND research, with an extra mark for sheer wackiness – the ribosome translating a C9orf72 repeat expansion cake!”

The winning cake was by Jenn Dodd, a PhD student at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN)! Here Jenn describes her cake and how it feels to be the MND Researchers Bake off Champion!

Jenn Dodd's winning ribosome translating C9orf72 cake!

Jenn Dodd’s winning ribosome translating C9orf72 cake!

The winner’s speech:

I decided to bake the cake, as at SITraN we have a weekly cake club and it was my turn to bake in June. I thought entering the competition would be a good way to get involved in MND awareness month and thought it would make cake club a bit different!

Small structural units called cells make up the human body. They convert food and oxygen into energy to produce chemically reactive machines and building blocks called proteins. There are thousands of different proteins made and so special templates called RNA are sent to a protein-making factory in cells called the ribosome. The ribosome makes proteins from the RNA templates in a process called translation (Read more about how cells make proteins here).

The cake shows a ribosome (yellow) translating RNA (the stripey sweets) to make a protein (the flying saucer chains). The protein that is being made is C9ORF72, a protein with an unknown function that is involved in some cases of MND.

I’d like to say thank you and I am really please to have won the bake off with my cake experiment!

Sally Light – my MND research blog

To end MND Awareness month our final blog for our MND Research ‘blog a day’ is from Sally Light, CEO of the MND Association. After joining the Association back in December 2012 she blogs about her experience of MND research.

I have the fortune to meet lots of our members and supporters as part of my role and I am very frequently asked about progress with MND research – are there any new developments, are we any closer to understanding the disease or to new treatments? Continue reading


Barbara Thuss is project co-ordinator for Project MinE, an international initiative with the aim of sequencing at least 15,000 MND genomes. We announced earlier today that the MND Association is funding the UK-arm of this initiative, known as the Whole Genome Sequencing project. Here Barbara explains more about Project-MinE.

Although the precise cause of MND is still unknown, in recent years it has become increasingly clear that this devastating and fatal disease of the motor neurons has a genetic basis. Project-MinE is an ambitious international research initiative aimed at detecting genetic causes and risk factors for MND. The project has been initiated by two people living with MND, along with the ALS research group in the Netherlands.

mine Continue reading

The UK Whole Genome Sequencing project

Dr Samantha Price is the Research Information Co-ordinator at the MND Association. As well as organising the ‘blog a day’ during MND Awareness Month she also communicates the latest news about MND research. Here she blogs about the MND Association’s announcement of the UK Whole Genome Sequencing project.

It’s been a brilliant Awareness Month with blogs about zebrafish research and streaking meerkats. To end on a positive research note, we’re delighted to announce that we are funding a UK Whole Genome Sequencing project to help us understand more about the causes of MND. Utilising samples from our own UK MND DNA bank; researchers in the UK will aim to sequence 1,500 genomes to help identify more of the genetic factors involved in the disease.  Continue reading

Postcard from Australia

Emma Devenney at this year's symposium in Milan

Emma Devenney at last year’s symposium in Milan

Dr Emma Devenney is an MND Association and Neuroscience Research Australia funded PhD student investigating the Cerebellum in MND and Frontotemporal Dementia at Neuroscience Research Australia. She is finding out what role it plays in the symptoms of patients with the C9orf72 mutation. Here she blogs about her work from Australia!

Finally after more than 12 months of preparation and anticipation I touched down in Sydney to be greeted by a city in the throes of early summer. Sydney in the summer is the epitome of the Australian dream and it is easy to see how it has enticed many Irish and British immigrants to its shores. The blue skies, beautiful beaches and a lively cultural and social scene are amongst many of the cities attractions and distractions.

Neuroscience Research Australia is in the exuberant Eastern suburbs of Sydney; an area where the British and Irish expatriate communities have integrated well into Australian society and are as reliant on a daily ‘flat white’ as any self-respecting Australian. The research centre is located down the hill from the Prince of Wales hospital in the suburb of Randwick. Continue reading

Waste disposal in MND

Dr Rob Layfield’s research at the University of Nottingham is funded by the MND Association. His research aims to investigate the cells waste disposal system, which could lead to new ways in how doctors manage the symptoms of the disease.

MND Association-funded researcher Alice Goode using NMR to investigate the structure of a mutant p62 protein.

MND Association-funded researcher Alice Goode using NMR to investigate the structure of a mutant
p62 protein.

Our work focuses on the effects of SQSTM1 mutations on the structure of the protein it encodes, p62. We are also testing the idea that MND-mutant p62 is defective at mediating protein degradation via autophagy (the cells waste disposal system). Continue reading

Visualising FUS

Prof Vladimir Buchman (Cardiff University) was awarded funding by the MND Association for his research into the fused-in-sarcoma (FUS) protein. Dr Tatyana Shelkovnikova began the project in April 2014. Find out more here.

“For the MND Association’s blog a day we have this very nice (we think it is nice!) collage illustrating how FUS aggregates (green) gradually develop in cultured cells expressing a mutant form of this protein -enjoy the image!”

fus image

Continue reading

Streaking Meerkats

In April 2014 over 30 runners from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) took part in the Sheffield half marathon. The team consisted of researchers and family members (one of which had even travelled all the way from Australia to take part!). Association-funded researcher, Dr Emily Goodall, blogs about the Streaking Meerkats running team’s half marathon challenge.

A unique running team

I took up running for the usual reasons, to increase fitness, lose a bit of weight and boost energy levels. Running was the ideal exercise for a hectic lifestyle, just grab a pair of trainers and get going! I joined a very friendly running group where I met Tracy, a motivational fitness instructor with a ‘can do’ attitude. So far, so normal.

Then a crazy idea began to germinate, why not set myself a real challenge – running a half marathon with less than a years’ worth of training. This developed into – why do this alone, a team has greater power to raise money and awareness. Add a catchy team name to attract attention and the Streaking Meerkats were born!

Mo at streaking meerkat bootcamp with Monty, local mascot for “not the full monty” fun run team!

Mo at streaking meerkat bootcamp with Monty, local mascot for “not the full monty” fun run team!

Continue reading

MND meerkats raising awareness around the globe

Using social media to establish their presence, the MND meerkats have been raising awareness of MND research. From the labs of Sheffield to the shores of Perth, they’ve covered huge distances in their awareness raising mission. Here Gino, Mo and Oz write about their recent activities:

Gino D’Amino

gino1Gino D’Amino was named by staff at the MND Association prior to the 24th International Symposium on ALS/MND, which was being held in Milan, Italy. He was also lucky enough to get his outfit designed too!

In Milan, Gino was a huge success. After catching up with Mo LeCule during a coffee break he then went on to help sell 100 meerkats – raising 500 Euros for the Association!

After the symposium, Gino visited a number of our funded-researchers during the European Network for a Cure of ALS (ENCALS) meeting in May 2014. As well as being present at these international research events he has also helped members of our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) decide on which new research projects the Association should fund. Continue reading