Hi all! I’m Riddhi and I’ve just joined the MND Association as a ‘Research Information Co-ordinator’ in the Research Development Team 😊
You’ll probably see me across the blog, from writing posts on exciting updates in MND research to replying to your comments, so I thought it would be nice to introduce myself and my background (including how I used ladybirds in neurodegenerative diseases). I’m thrilled to be part of the organisation that continuously strives towards helping people living with and affected by MND through funding research, campaigning and providing care and support. I look forward to exploring all the studies that contribute to finding an effective treatment or cure and then communicating these to you.
I recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham and I have particular interests in neurobiology, medical genetics, and healthcare areas.
Towards the end of my course, I worked on my own scientific research project which involved investigating the effect of natural toxins (chemicals found in plants/animals) on important ion channels found in the brain. Ion channels are proteins that span across the membrane of cells to allow the passage of important molecules – ions – such as calcium and sodium. These molecules make sure our muscle and nerve cells work in the correct way and at the right time.
Ion channels have been implicated as key players in various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and MND. The over-activation of ion channels can cause abnormal influx of ions into a cell which can lead to damage or death of a neuron. The aim of my project was to determine if a natural toxin could block this over-activation as a potential therapeutic for neurodegenerative diseases.
Did you know some ladybirds can secrete toxins from their leg joints as a chemical defence mechanism to perceived threats, such as predators? 🐞
I used a toxin extract from Harlequin ladybirds on an important type of ion channel called NMDA receptors. Although my research was preliminary (a lot more investigations are required), the toxin extract showed to block the flow of ions through the channels which is promising as it could prevent damage that leads to neurodegeneration.
If a little ladybird holds something with some therapeutic potential, what else could be out there to help us reach cures for diseases?
Aside from my degree, I have volunteered as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) outreach ambassador which aims to inspire young people to consider a higher education in these disciplines. This involved going to regional events and presenting exciting science experiments (such as extracting DNA from a strawberry – using only household items!) to help bring STEM subjects to life and demonstrate their value. Seeing the enthusiasm of the children and realising the impact that it will make on the future generation, such as more science-based careers, made the experience more enjoyable and rewarding. This experience relays to the work that the MND Association does to encourage the continuation of research on the disease.
As well as through this blog, my role will include presenting at branch meetings, conferences, and reporting from the International Symposium on ALS/MND. I hope I can continue to engage people with science and communicate updates in MND research in a way that everyone can understand.
With the continuous development of new technologies and scientific discoveries, it’s an exciting time to reach a breakthrough in MND and I am privileged to play a small part in this. I hope that you will enjoy my articles and updates. Please do feel free to leave comments to ask me questions, or email me and my team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more about my Master’s project and some of the struggles that I faced (as unfortunately scientific research isn’t as straight forward as we could hope):