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Powering MND research

MND Scotland is to invest more than £250,000 in three new research projects

Posted : 11/10/2021

MND Scotland is to invest more than a quarter of a million pounds, over the next two years, into three new motor neurone disease (MND) research projects - powered by generous donations and fundraising by supporters.

The new research projects, which have been selected based on advice from our Scientific Advisory Panel, will run alongside research which is already underway. This includes the pioneering MND-SMART clinical trial which is currently testing new MND treatments across Scotland.

Two of the new research projects will examine a special protein called TDP-43. The third project will be announced in the next 12 months.

Rachel Maitland, Chief Executive of MND Scotland, said: “I am delighted to announce that MND Scotland will be investing over a quarter of a million pounds into three new research projects.

"Forty years ago, MND Scotland started as an idea in a living room in Glasgow. Today, due to our incredible supporters, we fund innovative research projects and pioneering clinical trials.

"Despite the enormous challenges faced by charities over the last year and a half, our donors, fundraisers and corporate partners are the reason we are in a position to continue funding cutting-edge MND research.

"This latest investment demonstrates our commitment to the global fightback against motor neurone disease. Together, we will beat MND.”

A new preclinical model for testing ALS drugs

Dr. Francisco Iñesta-Vaquera and Dr. Chris Henstridge from the University of Dundee will develop a new way of testing drugs for the potential treatment of ALS and Frontotemporal dementia.

The most common form of MND is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). There is currently no cure, due to our incomplete understanding of the disease. Almost every person with ALS has clumps of a protein called TDP-43 and these are linked to cell damage in the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers know that a form of cell damage called oxidative stress occurs in ALS, but they don’t know what happens first or which cells suffer this damage. By identifying the earliest stage of damage, the research team believes that new drugs could be designed to halt the disease.

The team will work on mice in the lab which will have the same TDP43 clumps seen in ALS patients. By adding a special “tag” the team will be able to highlight and identify the cells suffering from damage. Studying the animals at different stages will allow the team to see when cells encounter TDP-43 clumps and when the damage happens. These new tests will allow us to increase our understanding of disease progression and may provide a new way to test ALS drugs in the future.

MND Scotland is proud to partner with Alzheimer’s Research UK to co-fund this project.

Learning how proteins go wrong in ALS

Professor Tom Gillingwater from the University of Edinburgh, who is a member of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, will use an ultra-modern technique to understand how a specific protein can cause damage to the brain and spinal cord in ALS.

We know that ALS, the most common form of MND, has both inherited and non-inherited forms, but there is only one common trait to over 95% of cases – a build-up of a protein called TDP-43, which is linked to cell damage in the brain and spinal cord.

Recent research has showed us that protein synthesis, a vital process to the health of motor neurons, has gone wrong in ALS and may happen because of changes in TDP-43.

Motor neurons are the largest nerve cells in the body, which makes them especially vulnerable to changes in normal cellular functions such as protein synthesis. In this project Dr. Gillingwater will use a state-of-the-art technique called TRAP (translating ribosome affinity purification) that will precisely work out how protein synthesis is affected in different parts of motor neurons in mice.

The findings will give us important insights into how and when protein synthesis is disrupted in ALS, highlighting new targets for future treatments.

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Your support matters

Forty years ago, MND Scotland started as an idea in a living room in Glasgow. Today we fund ground-breaking research and clinical trials because of people like you.

Please donate to support our work if you are able to. Every penny helps us change lives today and fund more innovative MND research projects. Thank you.

 

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“This latest investment demonstrates our commitment to the global fightback against motor neurone disease. Together, we will beat MND.”

Rachel Maitland | Chief Executive

Rachel Maitland | Chief Executive