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

Investigating miRNAs as a biomarker for MND

There is a critical need to find a biomarker for MND to speed up diagnosis, monitor disease progression and improve clinical trials. A biomarker is a biological change that can be detected in a person to signal that they have MND, and that can be measured over time to monitor how the disease is progressing.

Previous research has suggested micro RNAs (miRNAs) present in the blood might be a biomarker for MND. miRNAs are short forms of RNA, the cell’s copy of our genetic material DNA. They are stable in the blood, can be easily measured with a blood test, and evidence suggests that they are linked to MND progression. To put it simply, if the biomarker hunt was a music festival, miRNAs would be a headlining act that a lot of people are excited about! Continue reading

Developing a blood test for MND by linking changes in the brain and spinal cord

Developing a way to rapidly diagnose and track how MND progresses over time is a ‘holy grail’ of MND research. The search for so called ‘biomarkers’ is an area that researchers funded by the MND Association are actively pursuing.

MND Association grantees Dr Andrea Malaspina and Dr Ian Pike (Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London) and Prof Linda Greensmith (University College London) are currently working on a project to find these biomarkers (our reference: 871-791). People with MND have been helping the researchers by regularly donating blood and spinal cord fluid samples.

QMUL-Blizad MND group

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Blizard Institute MND group

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On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gave to me: Seven research strategy themes

“On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gives to you… our SEVEN research strategy themes”

It’s New Year’s eve, a time to look back and celebrate on 2014 and our MND research achievements. It’s also a time to look to the future; in 2015 we will be funding new MND research in line with our research strategy.

Our 2010-2015 research strategy focuses on seven key themes.

causes1) Identifying the causes of MND

The exact cause of the majority of cases of MND is still unknown. Therefore identifying the causes is our first step in understanding MND and developing future treatments.

In 2014 we identified two new inherited MND genes and also announced funding for the UK Whole Genome Sequencing project to better identify the rarer genetic factors involved in causing the disease. Read more.

models2) Create and validate new models

Once we identify a genetic cause of MND, we need to find out how this gene causes MND. Animal and cellular models help us to find out how the gene affects the motor neurones and how this causes disease in a complex animal system. Continue reading

Neurofilaments show promise as biomarker candidates for MND

TiskSaturday afternoon saw the 25th International Symposium on ALS/MND expand from two to three sessions running in parallel. Times have changed from the early years of the meeting when sessions finished at lunchtime on the second day because there wasn’t enough stuff to talk about! Rather than flitting between three different lecture halls, I opted to immerse myself in the Biomarkers session, especially since the session was being kicked off with presentations from MND Association funded investigators.  Continue reading

Very ‘ice’ research

The ALS #icebucketchallenge, which started in America, has now well and truly hit the UK! The social media craze has seen thousands of people getting involved in raising awareness of ‘ALS’( the most common form of MND), and funds for the Association, by placing a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads. But what happens to the donations?

The #icebucketchallenge has raised awareness of MND and has got people asking ‘what is ALS/MND?’ The donations raised will enable us to support people with MND and fund vital research. We thought we would share with you some of our ‘coolest’ research this bank holiday weekend, which the #icebucketchallenge is helping to fund:

The UK MND DNA bank (link to previous blog) freezers store DNA at a rather chilly -80°C! Now, that’s a lot colder than any #icebucketchallenge (image courtesy of CIGMR Biobank)

The UK MND DNA bank freezers store DNA at a rather chilly -80°C! Now, that’s a lot colder than any #icebucketchallenge (image courtesy of CIGMR Biobank)

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The ALS biomarkers study: a journey into the disease

Dr Andrea Malaspina is an Association-funded researcher investigating biomarkers, or ‘biological fingerprints’ of MND. Here he blogs about working with patients and basic science.

I regularly meet people living with MND due to my role as a Consultant Neurologist at the Bart’s and the London MND Care Centre and one of the most common questions I get asked is about getting involved in research. My research enables people living with MND to take part, therefore bridging the gap between the lab and the clinic.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Blizzard Institute MND group

Queen Mary’s University of London (QMUL) Blizard Institute MND group

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MND Researchers: England v Italy

Tonight England will take on Italy in the FIFA World Cup. It’s fair to say England look like they have pretty poor odds of winning the World Cup (yet alone getting through the Group stages!), however I’m sure many England supporters will be cheering on their team tonight as they take on the Italians.

As we’re posting a blog a day for MND Awareness month, in light of the England v Italy game, we introduce the MND Italian researchers line-up! We may support different football teams in the World Cup, but our Italian researchers are working together with our English researchers towards a world free from MND.

The Italian MND researchers

Photo x MND

The formation of Bendotti’s team is:

Bottom, from the left: Mattia Freschi, Massimo Tortarolo, Giovanni Nardo,Nicola Secomandi, Antonio Vallarola; Top, from the left: Martina Rossi, Beatrice Bosani, Caterina Bendotti, Valentina Torti, Maria Chiara Trolese

Our research mainly focuses on studying MND mouse models with the same gene mutation, but different disease progression (see our previous blog post). Our main research objective is to identify the key molecular pathways that modulate the disease course in these mice. This will enable us to develop reliable prognostic biomarkers of the disease and treatments capable of slowing down the course of the disease.

This work is carried out in a joint international collaboration with Prof Pam Shaw (University of Sheffield, UK) and Dr Andrea Malaspina ( Queen Mary University of London, UK ).

 Thank you for reading our ‘blog a day’ this Awareness Month. We would gratefully appreciate your thoughts and feedback via this short 2 minute survey.