Developing ultrasound imaging as a potential non-invasive diagnostic tool for MND

When diagnosing MND, it is important to look at the activity and impact of the motor neurones themselves – is the electrical message being carried down the nerve properly, and is it reaching the end of the nerve in the muscle? Malfunctions in the electrical activity at the muscle end of the nerve cell result in the muscle twitching that many people with MND experience.

One of the tests used to diagnose MND is an electromyography or EMG test. It involves putting needles into a muscle to measure electrical activity. It can be a painful and unpleasant experience, which doctors and patients are only willing to do when necessary.

There is evidence that ultrasound imaging may be able to detect the same malfunctions in the electrical activity of muscle as EMG, by looking at the way the muscle behaves when electrical activity occurs. Ultrasound images produce the typical grey scale images, for example pictures from baby scans, and can be used to provide images of any muscles in the body.Read More »

How MND research happens: Manchester Science Festival

On Tuesday, we posted news of the two MND Awareness engagement events taking place in Manchester during the Manchester Science Festival (on 25 and 31 October). Both activities have been developed to try and translate to a wide audience the cycle scientific investigation goes through. Here in a second guest blog for us Dr Emma Hodson-Tole explains more.

The search for providing effective treatments and provision of support for MND is a challenge a wide network of scientists from many different disciplines are working to solve.  This requires development of new technologies and new approaches to enable study of different aspects of the neuromuscular system. These help provide a new understanding of how the neuromuscular system works, and changes which occur due to diseases such as MND.

To do this funding is required to provide laboratory space, cover costs of equipment and materials and enable researchers to have time to focus on their chosen programme of work.  Funding can come from many sources, for example from government research agencies such as the Medical Research Council (MRC) or medical research charities. For the MND Association the money spent on research is raised by donations. The donations come from members of the general public and the amazing range of fundraising activities they take part in.

It takes dedication for MND research to happen

So what are the motivations for all these activities?  Both the research and the fundraising activities require large amounts of dedication, determination and drive.  The source of this motivation is likely very different for each person in this network.  From the people I have had a chance to meet as part of my work related to MND, it seems that there is often a common theme.  That theme is the stories of the people who have been touched by MND, either through being diagnosed themselves or through supporting a family member or friend with the disease.  It is these individual stories which bring us full circle, to the challenges which scientists must work towards solving.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists

We hope the engagement activities planned for the science festival will help raise awareness of MND and ongoing research based in Manchester and other parts of the UK, such as the Patani Lab.  Spreading awareness within this setting could, we hope, also help inspire the next generation of scientists who are motivated to try and meet the challenges MND currently faces us with.

If you are in the Manchester area please do come by and see us, equally don’t forget to encourage any family or friends in the region to come and find out what it is all about!

You can find out more about the events described here and those of the wider Manchester Science Festival at: http://www.manchestersciencefestival.com/ScienceExtravaganzaPoster

Movement Making: 10.30am – 5pm Sunday 25 October, The Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, M3 4FP

Action Potential: 11:45am, 2pm and 3pm Saturday 31 October, The John Dalton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, M1 5GD (Being held as part of MMU Science Extravaganza)

Dr. Emma Hodson-Tole is a member of the Cognitive Motor Function research group at Manchester Metropolitan University. The activities described have been developed in collaboration with Dr. Rickie Patani (UCL), Belinda Cupid (MND Association), Devin Louttit and Thomas Valentine (Manchester Metropolitan University), Combination Dance, Dance Consulting and have been supported by The Wellcome Trust, the MND Association and MMUEngage.

Those of you on Twitter can follow activities related to the Manchester Science Festival using #msf15 and those specific to our activities using #mndmove

Movement Making in Manchester

Manchester this half term will be the showcase for two MND awareness events we’ve been working on with Dr Emma Hodson-Tole and Dr Rickie Patani. We’ll be publishing a series of blogs about what’s happening and why through this week. In the first Dr Emma Hodson-Tole explains what the events are about.

It is coming up to that time of year again when science takes centre stage in Manchester. The ninth Manchester Science Festival has over 130 planned events, providing a unique blend of art, make-it workshops, performances and big experiences aimed at encouraging visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in science, ideas and innovation.

As part of this year’s festival we have developed two activities which we hope will raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND), the MND Association and some of the research which is supported by the fundraising activities of the charity.  The first event is an opportunity to visit the first showing of a video montage, composed by Devin Louttit and Thomas Valentine (MMU), telling some of the stories of those affected by MND and some of the researchers working to development new treatments or methods.

Movement Making at MOSI

The event, Movement Making, will take place at The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) on Sunday 25 October and will also provide opportunities to talk directly with researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and The Patani Lab as well as see and interact with some of the technology they use as part of their research.  This will include the chance to see cells through a microscope, view your own muscles using ultrasound imaging and hear the electrical activity which occurs in muscle when they are activated.

Emma Hodson-Tole discussing her research with guests from the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Emma Hodson-Tole (left) discussing her research and using the ultrasound imaging machine with guests from the MND Association.

Action Potential at MMU’s ‘Science Extravaganza’

The second event is the premier of an exciting new dance-science collaboration called ‘Action Potential’.  Dancers and martial arts performers will stage an interactive dance exploring how we currently understand a motor neurone works, how MND affects the body and the effects MND has on those living with the disease.  The dance is choreographed by Anne-Marie Smalldon and is the result of a new collaboration between researchers and professional dancers.  In between performances there will also be another opportunity to see the video montage ‘Movement Making’, talk to scientists about their work and volunteers from the MND Association about their experiences of MND.ACTION POTENTIAL_FINAL

This event will take place on Saturday 31 October at Manchester Metropolitan University and is part of a range of wider science based activities being staged as part of the University’s ‘Science Extravaganza’ day.

Movement Making: 10.30am – 5pm Sunday 25 October, The Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, M3 4FP

Action Potential: 11:45am, 2pm and 3pm Saturday 31 October, The John Dalton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, M1 5GD (Being held as part of MMU Science Extravaganza)ScienceExtravaganzaPoster

Dr. Emma Hodson-Tole is a member of the Cognitive Motor Function research group at Manchester Metropolitan University. The activities described have been developed in collaboration with Dr. Rickie Patani (UCL), Belinda Cupid (MND Association), Devin Louttit and Thomas Valentine (Manchester Metropolitan University), Combination Dance, Dance Consulting and have been supported by The Wellcome Trust, the MND Association and MMUEngage.

Those of you on Twitter can follow activities related to the Manchester Science Festival using #msf15 and those specific to our activities using #mndmove

MND Diagnosis: The utility of standard frame rate b-mode ultrasound imaging

Kate Bibbings is a PhD student funded by the MND Association, who is using ultrasound as a diagnostic tool for MND. Like Dr Martin Turner, she is hoping to speed up the diagnosis of MND. Based at Manchester Metropolitan University, here she gives us an introduction to her research.

B Mode ultrasound has been used a number of times to successfully identify muscle twitches. Recordings may be made of activity and movement within the selected muscle and analysed in order to determine the presence of muscle twitches. This has previously been done by individuals with experience in ultrasound video analysis and using the technique of manual identification/ classification. However, this is a subjective and time consuming technique.

My research

The aim of this study is to evaluate the performance of previously developed automated ultrasound analysis techniques, whilst investigating improvements or alternatives that may be used for the automated detection of muscle twitches. This will be done with the scope to making a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease whilst blinded to the actual clinical diagnosis, using only ultrasound images and the automated twitch detection technique. This will enable the viability of using ultrasound as a clinical diagnostic technique to be assessed and compared to the current technique of intramuscular Electromyography.

Currently, work is being carried out into investigating the effects of probe orientation and positioning on image quality (determined by such features as fascicle definition). It is hoped that this work will pay dividends when we begin collecting our first pilot data at Royal Preston Hospital, late July 2014.

KAte bibbings

The Muscle Function Lab at Manchester Metropolitan University

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