Degenerating Brains

“One in six of over-80 year olds will get a neurodegenerative disease. We’ve got to find ways to slow, stop or reverse these conditions” was the distinctly political message at the opening of this public symposia on “Degenerating Brains: new research into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease”, run jointly by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. The evening began with the world premiere of a short film explaining the importance of continuing to pursue research into these conditions (coming soon to an internet near you.. !).

The lectures started by Prof John Hardy’s excellent overview of genetics, illustrated by advances in Alzheimer’s Disease. “It’s the golden age for being a geneticist” he commented. I particularly enjoyed his explanation of the much quoted research paper by Manolio et al 2009 (Its Figure 1 in this OPEN ACCESS (yeah!) paper –if you really want to look at it!). “There are now recipes for finding causes of diseases that fall anywhere on this graph” Prof Hardy explained. Whether they are rare genetic mistakes that have a big impact (make a big contribution) on whether someone develops a condition) or more common genetic mistakes that have a smaller overall contribution. His closing comment “Geneticists are finding the jigsaw pieces to give to the cell biologist and neuropathologists to put together”, was a theme that the next speaker, Prof Chris Shaw, continued.

Prof Shaw, MND Association grantee, eminent scientist and clinician based at King’s College London, began his talk by laying down a challenge to the younger generation of scientists in the audience “I’m banking on you to find the answers to my degenerating brain”. He went on to explain how the discovery of genetic mistakes in SOD1, TDP-43 and FUS has led us to a greater understanding of the biological pathways involved in motor neurone degeneration in MND. Prof Shaw’s research has led him to develop close relationships with families affected by the rare, inherited form of MND and he ended his talk with a thank you to them for their help.

The concluding presentation was given by Prof David Rubenstein from Cambridge University, describing how advances in understanding Huntingdon’s disease research will act as a model for driving advances in other neurodegenerative diseases.
The consortia of funded researchers have got together to create a blog site for posts about Alzheimer’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease or Parkinson’s Disease, why not add this link to your favourites too (and if you’re a twitter fan, you can follow them @dneurons ) http://degeneratingneurons.wordpress.com/.

Brain Awareness week

Every March, Brain Awareness Week (11 – 17 March 2013) unites people of all ages worldwide to raise awareness of brain research. There are 45 free events across the UK, including seminars and school visits.

On the evening of the 11 March Belinda attended the free award ceremony for the winner of the Europe PubMed Central-led science writing competition ‘Access to understanding’, which included a large number of entries on an MND paper.

On the 13 March University College London (UCL) will be running a free public symposia on ‘Degenerating Brains’. As well as talks on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Prof Chris Shaw (King’s College London) will be speaking about MND. Due to the popularity of this event it is now fully booked.

Our Brain Research

Dr Martin Turner
Dr Martin Turner

Dr Martin Turner’s BioMOx project MND Association funded researcher Dr Martin Turner at the University of Oxford has identified a pattern of degeneration in the brains of people with MND that is linked to the level of disability.

Continuing and expanding  BioMOx Dr Martin Turner has also been awarded his second MRC/MND Association Lady Edith Wolfson Clinical Research Fellowship to carry on his BioMOx project which is to begin in August 2013.

Dr Turner will be broadening the BioMOx project to include people identified as being at risk of developing MND from families with a history of the disease but who are not yet showing symptoms.

Dr Ramesh Tennore
Dr Ramesh Tennore

Dr Tennore Ramesh’s interneuron findings A recent study by Association funded researcher Dr Tennore Ramesh from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) has shown that even before the symptoms of MND occur, at the earliest stages of the disease, ‘connector neurones’ known as interneurons are already becoming damaged in the zebrafish.

Prof Mara Cercignani’s MRI scans project Starting in October 2013 Prof Mara Cercignan’s Association funded PhD studentship will use brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that have already been obtained from many studies at King’s College London over the past 16 years.

This project will apply new ideas in medical computing to old data in order to identify how MRI changes in the brains of people with MND evolve. This will then enable the development of a new method to ‘stage’ MND progression so that brain abnormalities can be detected earlier.

Tissue Donation and MND

Tissue donation is a generous gift that can make a vital contribution towards MND research. Researchers investigating MND are particularly interested in the whole of the brain and spinal cord tissue, otherwise known as the central nervous system (CNS).

A brain and spinal cord tissue donation is made from either a healthy individual or somebody with MND after their death. To find out more information about tissue donation please see our information sheet on our website.

Raise Awareness of MND

I Am Breathing
I Am Breathing

Our 2013 Awareness Month campaign is focussed around a film called I Am Breathing. The hard-hitting documentary tells the story of Neil Platt, who was diagnosed with MND just after his son, Oscar, was born.

Neil wanted to leave a legacy for Oscar and also raise awareness of MND. We hope that thousands of people will see the film on or after a special Global Screening Day, Friday 21 June, Global MND Awareness Day.The Association has joined forces with the film makers, the Scottish Documentary Institute, and with Neil’s family to make sure this powerful story is shared as widely as possible when the film is released during the Awareness Month in June 2013.

You can help fulfil Neil’s goal of raising awareness by hosting your own screening of I Am Breathing on 21 June 2013 – MND Global Awareness Day.