18 December 2019 12:31
SCIENTISTS hope a cure for motor neurone disease (MND) is a step closer after a research breakthrough identified cells key to the degenerative condition. There is currently no known cure for MND, which causes signals from motor neurone nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord needed to control movement to gradually stop reaching the muscles. Notable people who have lived with MND include Scottish rugby star Doddie Weir and Stephen Hawking. Researchers used stem cell technology to identify a type of cell that can cause motor neurones to fail. Using stem cells from patient skin samples, they found glial cells, which normally support neurones in the brain and spinal cord, become damaging to motor neurones in the patients with the condition.
By testing different combinations of glial cells and motor neurones grown together in the lab, researchers found glial cells from MND patients can cause motor neurones in healthy people to stop producing the electrical signals needed to control muscles. Miles said: "We are very excited by these new findings, which clearly point the finger at glial cells as key players in this devastating disease. "We hope that this new information highlights targets for the development of much-needed treatments and ultimately a cure for MND." Motor neuron disease (MND) could be caused by a cholesterol imbalance, recent research suggests. The link was identified in a study conducted by a team from the University of Exeter, which said it could help accelerate diagnoses and lead to new treatments for the condition. MND is a disease that affects the brain and nervous system. It can also significantly shorten life expectancy, although some people live with the condition for many years. It is believed to affect approximately 5,000 people in the United Kingdom and cause more than 2,000 deaths per year. In the study, the researchers identified 13 genes that can cause the condition and found that everyone was involved in cholesterol processing. leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch. AFP / Getty AFP / Getty Images The findings, which scientists described as an "eureka moment," could help doctors provide better support and treatment for people with MND and help predict how their condition can develop. Lead author Andrew Crosby said: "For years, we have known that a large number of genes are involved in motor neuron disease, but so far it has not been clear if there is 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 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. But he lived with the condition for 55 years until his death in 2018.