Scientists in Scotland make breakthrough MND discovery

pharmafile | January 20, 2021 | News story | Research and Development motor neurone disease 

Researchers in Scotland have made a discovery that could reverse the damage caused by motor neurone disease (MND).

University of Edinburgh scientists were able to repair damaged nerve cells using motor neurons grown from stem cells, and hope that repurposing existing drugs could produce the same results.

MND is a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system, and occurs when motor neurons, which send signals from the brain and spinal cord to the body’s muscles, stop working properly. More than 1,500 people in the UK are affected by the disease every year, and around half of patients die within two years of diagnosis. There is currently no known cure.

The research team behind the study discovered that the axon, the part of the motor neuron that connects to the muscle, is shorter in cells affected by MND than in healthy ones. Their findings also showed that the movement of the mitochondria, which travel up and down the axons, is impaired in people with MND due to a defective energy supply.

Scientists repaired the damage to the nerve cells by boosting energy levels in the mitochondria, and found that the axon reverted to its normal length. This was achieved by using motor neurons grown from stem cells, and studying spinal cord tissue donated by MND sufferers who had died.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, UK Dementia Research Institute and Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

Darcy Jimenez

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