Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology has enabled researchers to create and study living human motor neurones in the lab, derived originally from patient skin cells.
This project (our reference 80-970-797) is a collaboration between the labs of Professors Chris Shaw and Jack Price at King’s College in London and Siddharthan Chandran in Edinburgh. It aims to use the already collected white blood cell samples within the UK MND DNA Bank to create a larger number of new iPSC models of MND. Ultimately creating an MND iPSC cell bank, these models will enable researchers to better understand the disease and screen potential new drugs.
Originally, participants gave two blood samples to the UK MND DNA Bank. One was used to extract DNA which is now stored at the University of Manchester. The second blood sample was sent to Public Health England in Wiltshire to create an everlasting supply of DNA, by storing the white blood cells from the sample.
Today, MND researchers are just as interested in the white blood cells as they are the DNA. Thanks to advances in technology these white blood cells can be used to create cell models of MND, and can then be converted into iPSCs .
Creating motor neurones from blood cells was unimaginable when the UK MND DNA Bank was first created. Now, these models will be used to further our understanding of MND in the lab. The samples will not be developed into a treatment directly given to patients.
“We’ve made great strides in discovering the genes that contribute to MND. There’s more to do, and DNA in the UK MND DNA Bank will continue to be an important resource,” said Dr Belinda Cupid, Head of Research at the Association.
“However, the next step is to understand why the genetic damage or variations cause motor neurones to die, and this means looking at these genes within cells, ideally motor neurones. It is a significant and important step forward that we can use the cells from the Bank for this too.”
Throughout June 2016 MND Awareness Month will be highlighting the rapid progression of the disease in its powerful Shortened Stories campaign, sharing the experiences of people currently living with MND, or who have lost loved ones to the disease, through art, poetry and film.