Symposium Blogathon: Focus on Lifestyle and Environment

Symposium Blogathon: Focus on Lifestyle and Environment

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This blog is part of our Symposium Blogathon series – where we are counting down to the 33rd International Symposium. Numbers in bold blue type correspond to the code in the abstract book. Click on the number to be redirected to the full abstract.

MND is a very complex disease and the cause is still unknown but it is thought to be a result of a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. The study of these factors and the role they may play in the disease is called epidemiology. Studying possible links between lifestyle and environment and MND could help us to understand more about the causes and mechanisms of motor neuron death, which is crucial to the discovery and development of new treatments.

Blog | 4 October 2022 | Charlotte Roy
New research: Is there a link between rugby and MND

Environmental exposures and MND

It has been suggested that exposure to certain environmental factors, such as air pollution, may play a role in the development and progression of MND. Research investigating possible links between various environmental contaminants and MND has increased over recent years, and this is helping to shed more light on factors that might influence the disease.

Previous research has looked at exposure to electromagnetic fields and the risk of developing MND. However, research looking at the effects of this exposure on disease presentation and progression is very limited. A study, conducted by researchers at the University of Turin, has been investigating whether electromagnetic field exposure is related to age of onset and disease progression in people diagnosed with MND in Italy. Dr Margherita Daviddi will present a poster (EPI08) discussing the outcomes of this work.

Regularly breathing air contaminated with high amounts of lead has been shown to be connected to other health conditions, such as anaemia and kidney damage, but it is not yet known if it contributes to the development of MND. A team from Dartmouth College in the USA have been researching the potential relationship between MND and airborne lead. In this poster (EPI04), Dr Meifang Li presents the results of the study which assessed exposure to lead and geographical location in a number of people diagnosed with MND in Ohio.

Agriculture and MND

Previous research studies focusing on aspects of agriculture and MND, such as exposure to pesticides, have found very different results. Due to these inconsistent results, it remains unclear as to whether there is a link between agriculture and the disease and more studies into this area are needed. Researchers from the University of Turin in Italy have been investigating whether living close to an agricultural area has an effect on the risk of developing MND, the age of onset and progression of the disease. Dr Umberto Manera will be presenting a poster (EPI14) on the findings of this study which was conducted in Italy using information from people with MND.

MND disease registers

Registers of diseases are databases that enable clinicians and researchers to gather information on people who are diagnosed with the disease. They may help to identify lifestyle and environmental factors that could be associated with the development and progression of the disease. Researchers from universities across Canada have been working to expand the current Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Registry to collect more information on those diagnosed with MND in Canada, including information on which treatments they are taking. In this poster presentation (EPI03), Dr Victoria Hodgkinson from the University of Calgary will describe the analysis of the data collected so far.

Stay Informed

If you have come across this blog through the Symposium website, or a general search please subscribe (see top right-hand corner of page) and you’ll be notified every time we upload a new article.

You can follow our research account on Twitter. We tweet about up to the minute research and will be tweeting throughout the Symposium using the hashtag #alsmndsymp.

Take a look at the schedule of blogs for November as we continue counting down to the 33rd International Symposium on ALS/MND with our Symposium Blogathon.

To listen to talks live, take part in the Q&As and visit the live poster sessions, register for the International Symposium now.

I work in the Research Development team at the MND Association as a Research Co-ordinator. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science and I became very interested in neuroscience throughout my degree. Following on from this, I did a Master’s degree in Molecular Medicine, with a focus on gene therapies. As part of my role, I will be helping the Research Development team to identify interesting updates in MND research and communicate these via the blog in an understandable and engaging way.