Making antisense of RNA editing

helena chaytow 2Association-funded PhD student, Helena Chaytow (Royal Holloway, University of London), is using DNA to develop a targeted treatment for MND. Now entering her final year, we report on what she’s achieved so far and her future plans.

The background

Helena’s research is looking at the chemical messenger ‘glutamate’. Glutamate is released by motor neurones in order to stimulate a nerve impulse from one motor neurone to the other, which is how the instruction to move our muscles travels from our brain to our limbs.

In order to pass the message on, glutamate needs to bind to the second nerve cell, and it does this by acting like a ‘lock and key’. Read More »

SOD1 Stuff

With all the talk of new gene discoveries in recent years, the Sunday morning scientific session returned to the original discovery in 1993 that mutations in the SOD1 gene were responsible for around a fifth of familial (inherited) MND cases and 2-3% of all cases of the disease.

Although much of our understanding of MND in the past two decades comes from SOD1 laboratory models of the disease, we still don’t know exactly how SOD1 kills motor neurons. But that hasn’t stopped several groups from working on a number of innovative ways of protecting motor neurons from SOD1 toxicity. Although focused on a relatively rare form of MND, some of the strategies being followed could potentially also be applicable to other forms of the disease.

sod1 stuctureRead More »

Cell Culture Work in Motor Neuron Disease Research

Following on from baking, and understanding the roles of genes and proteins, Helena Chaytow (Royal Holloway) explains about her research. Helena is an MND Association-funded PhD student developing small strands of DNA, known as ‘antisense oligonucleotides’ to make motor neurones more resistant to damage.


The challenge of working with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is that we don’t completely understand its causes. There are multiple theories for different events within cells that finally end up with the motor neuron-specific cell death found in MND. One of these theories relates to processing of RNA molecules, which are the cell’s method of communicating information from DNA with the rest of the cell. Find out more about DNA and RNA here.

Read More »