Over 100 talks were given at this month’s International Symposium on ALS/MND in Dublin. There were also over 450 posters of research being presented too. Time in the conference programme was allocated on Wednesday and Thursday evening (day 1 and day 2 of the 3 day conference) to visit the posters – you might think that scheduled at the end of the day they would be less well attended – but not a bit of it! It was an extremely loud and buzzy part of the conference.
Below is a brief round-up of some of the posters that caught my eye.
More on environmental and lifestyle factors linked to MND
Following on from the opening talk of the conference from Joel Vermeulen, there were a number of posters looking at factors that may contribute to why people develop MND. It is likely to be many factors – perhaps as many as 100s – that in combination trigger someone to develop MND.
P7 Smoking and how MND progresses: A study from the Italian population register in Piemonte in Italy looked at environmental and lifestyle factors from a different angle. The researchers looked at how previous (pre-diagnosis) history of smoking, hypertension and diabetes may affect how long people live with MND. People with MND who had never smoked lived longer with MND than current or never smokers. They concluded if they can find out why this is – possibly related to the way chemicals coat DNA (so-called epigenetics) – then more targeted drugs can be developed for people with MND in the future.
P8 Formaldehyde and MND: Following on from previous reports of links between formaldehyde exposure and MND, there was a poster looking at formaldehyde exposure in the Danish population. Everyone in Denmark is included in a population register. The study looked at occupational exposure to formaldehyde in those diagnosed with MND (3,650) in comparison to health controls (14,600). Those that were exposed to formaldehyde were at a slightly increased risk of developing MND. The researchers suggest that formaldehyde exposure may have occurred through use of formaldehyde in plastics and resins and in air pollutants.
This is the largest study to date looking at the link between formaldehyde exposure and the risk of developing MND.
These studies showed the potential of understanding more about the causes of MND from population registers (such as the MND Register in England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently under development) and the importance of linking genetic variation and environmental lifestyle factors together.
More information on what we know about the causes of MND is available on the MND Association’s website.
How easy is it for motor neurones to switch energy supplies?
Changing area of scientific research, I also took the opportunity to catch up with MND Association funded non-clinical fellow, Scott Allen, based at the Sheffield Institute of Translational Research in Sheffield. His research took me back to ‘A’ level biology days of energy creation in the cell (glycolysis and the Kreb’s cycle anyone?!).
We know that our bodies have the ability to switch to alternative energy supplies when the normal supply runs out. An example of the idea of energy switching is hybrid-cars – they switch between battery power or petrol.
In Scott’s work in progress poster (BW20) he found that cells affected by MND were less able to switch between energy supplies than healthy cells. He is looking at ways to smooth / help this energy switching which may have potential as a future therapeutic approach.
Dr Allen is one year into his MND Association fellowship and we look forward to updating you on his progress as his research unfolds in the next two years.
More information on posters presented in Dublin
You can read more about the posters presented in our post about the poster prizes. All of the abstracts (scientific summaries) are available to read online. A selection of posters are also available to read in full on a database called F1000.
To catch up on other research presented at the 27th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Dublin in December 2016, visit the MND Association website, where you can read reports of selected topics and watch videos recorded during the event.