Collaboration between cancer and MND researchers produces exciting results

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks for exciting research results! Hot on the heels of the publication of Dr Turner’s imaging study, MND Association-funded researchers who pioneered a state-of the art technique adapted from cancer research have just published results describing some of the earliest events in MND-related degeneration.

Prof Giampietro Schiavo and colleagues at Cancer Research UK worked with Prof Linda Greensmith, an experienced MND researcher at University College London, to modify a process known as ‘multiphoton microscopy’, which had previously been used to visualize the migration of cancer cells. This allowed them to watch important ‘cargo’ being transported around motor neurones.

In their report published this week in the journal PNAS, the researchers have described how the transport of nerve-nourishing substances from the end of the neurone where it connects to the muscle back up towards the neurone’s ‘control centre’ in the spinal cord is slowed at the very earliest stages of MND. This suggests that transport systems could be a key target for drug development. Further details on the research are available on our website.

A key element of our strategy is to increase the capacity of the MND research workforce. Encouraging experts from other fields to collaborate with established MND researchers is one way of achieving this so we are really pleased to see the alliance between Profs Schiavo and Greensmith bear fruit. This is a great example of ‘thinking outside the box’ to progress MND research and the cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas between scientists working in different research areas.

Reference: Bilsland LG, Sahai E, Kelly G et al. Deficits in axonal transport precede ALS symptoms in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 8. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1073/pnas.1006869107