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18 December 2019 12:43

Motor neurone disease (MND) could be caused by an imbalance of cholesterol, new research suggests.

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Motor neurone disease (MND) could be caused by an imbalance of cholesterol, new research suggests. The link was identified in a study conducted by a team at the University of Exeter, who say it could help speed up diagnoses and lead to new treatments for the condition. MND is an illness that affects the brain and the nervous system. According to the NHS, symptoms can include slurred speech, muscle twitches and a weak grip. It can also significantly shorten life expectancy, though some people live with the condition for many years.

Motor Neurone Disease linked to cholesterol in new research

Download the new Indpendent Premium app Sharing the full story, not just the headlines It is thought to affect roughly 5,000 people in the UK and causes more than 2,000 deaths annually. In the study, the researchers identified 13 genes that can cause the condition and found that they were all involved in processing cholesterol. NHS at 70: demonstration and celebration march to mark anniversary Show all 18 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. NHS at 70: demonstration and celebration march to mark anniversary 1/18 AFP/Getty Images 2/18 Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, addresses demonstrators following the march AFP/Getty 3/18 AFP/Getty Images 4/18 EPA 5/18 AFP/Getty Images 6/18 Reuters 7/18 REUTERS 8/18 EPA 9/18 REUTERS 10/18 PA 11/18 REUTERS 12/18 AFP/Getty Images 13/18 REUTERS 14/18 PA 15/18 AFP/Getty Images 16/18 AFP/Getty Images 17/18 AFP/Getty Images 18/18 AFP/Getty Images 1/18 AFP/Getty Images 2/18 Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, addresses demonstrators following the march AFP/Getty 3/18 AFP/Getty Images 4/18 EPA 5/18 AFP/Getty Images 6/18 Reuters 7/18 REUTERS 8/18 EPA 9/18 REUTERS 10/18 PA 11/18 REUTERS 12/18 AFP/Getty Images 13/18 REUTERS 14/18 PA 15/18 AFP/Getty Images 16/18 AFP/Getty Images 17/18 AFP/Getty Images 18/18 AFP/Getty Images The findings, which the scientists described as a "eureka moment", could help doctors provide better support and treatment for those with MND and help predict how their condition may develop. Lead author Andrew Crosby said: "For years, we have known that a large number of genes are involved in motor neurone disease, but so far it hasn't been clear if there's a common underlying pathway that connects them." Dr Brian Dickie, director of research at the MND Association, praised the findings but said more research is needed in order to fully understand the links observed. "At the moment, it is unclear whether the imbalance observed is a cause of MND or a consequence of the disease," he told the BBC. "We look forward to seeing the outcome of further research in this area." Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a slow-progessing form of MND known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 21. At the time, the famous physicist was told he had just two years to live. But he lived with the condition for 55 years up until his death in 2018.