The potential of a drug to assist in protecting nerve cells from degeneration which occurs in motor neuron disease, will begin pre-clinical testing after Tasmanian researchers secured $995,395 in funding from FightMND.
University of Tasmania researchers from the College of Health and Medicine and College of Sciences and Engineering, including the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, School of Medicine, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, and the School of Chemistry will join colleagues in Belgium for the international project.
The research is focused on testing a drug which has the potential to protect the structure of nerve cells, in order to maintain connections between these cells, which is vital for cell-to-cell communication.
Nerve cells communicate and signal with each other, and the rest of the body, via long processes that are a bit like electrical wires.
In motor neuron disease the electrical wires that control the muscles degenerate and stop working, which means the muscles stop working and movement is lost.
“There has been a lot of work to look at ways of protecting the nerve cells themselves, but if they still can’t signal to each other and the rest of the body, then they still can’t function,” Project lead and Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre Associate Professor Anna King said.
“It’s vital to understand the mechanisms by which these signalling connections are lost, as the clinical symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases appear when these connections are broken.
“Our research has identified a change to a specific structural protein, which may help drive the destruction of these nerve cell processes.
“We can prevent this change using a drug and we have shown in cell models that this can protect the nerve cell processes.
“The FightMND funding will now enable us to further develop this drug and test if it is worth taking forward for clinical trials as a potential treatment for motor neuron disease.”
Not-for-profit organisation, FightMND, announced $9 million in funding to 15 new MND research projects.