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  • Writer's pictureJim Manclark

Edinburgh scientists could reverse Motor Neurone Disease

Picture copyright MND Scotland

Edinburgh scientists are one stop closer to reversing the cruel disease that kills half of patients within just two years A breakthrough discovery made by scientists at Edinburgh University could have the potential to reverse the Motor Neurone disease. The horrific terminal illness causes muscles within the body to progressively waste away, and occurs when motor neurones, which send messages from the brain and spinal chord stop working.

A few people live for many years or even decades with Motor Neurone Disease, but tragically it kills half of people diagnosed within two years. But now capital researchers say they have found a way of 'reversing the damage caused to nerve cells by MND.'

The scientists have made an exciting discovery that axons, which are the long nerve fibres which connect and send electrical pulses from the nerve cells to healthy muscles are shorter in cells affected by MND. They also discovered that the disease impairs tiny energy cells which move up and down the axons called the mitochondria. And scientists say that they can repair damage to these nerve cells caused by MND, if they can boost the energy levels of these mitochondria.

The discovery was made in the lab at the Centre for MND research at Edinburgh University, where scientists grew neurones grown from stem cells collected from people with a genetic mutation known to cause MND. The neurones were then exposed to a virus which supercharged a molecule which is vital to the healthy functioning of the mitochondria. Dr. Arpan Mehta, one of the lead scientists on the project, said: “Our data provides hope that by restoring the cell’s energy source we can protect the axons and their connection to muscle from degeneration.

“Work is already underway to identify existing licensed drugs that can boost the mitochondria and repair the motor neurones. This will then pave the way to test them in clinical trials.”

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