Motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a neurodegenerative disease that causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness.

Specifically, the disease affects nerve cells (motor neurons) that control the muscles that enable you to move, speak, breathe and swallow.

MND is also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Approximately 1,400 people in Australia are living with this disease. MND typically affects people in their mid-50s and survival is approximately 2-5 years from the onset of symptoms. Although there is currently no cure for MND, an anti-glutamatergic medication is available and slows its progression.

The effects of MND vary greatly from person to person. MND may appear initially as a tingling or weakness in the hands and feet. Some people begin to stumble and can no longer hold objects in their hands easily. MND also affects the throat and tongue muscles, and some people with MND begin to slur their speech and have difficulty swallowing. In most cases, the disease eventually leads to widespread muscle wasting and weakness.

The precise cause of MND and its disease process remain a complete mystery. Some researchers are looking into possible environmental triggers – such as exposure to toxins or electrical injury.

Our research approaches

NeuRA is trying to improve our understanding of what causes the neurons to die by studying patients with MND using novel electrical and magnetic tests. We have also conducted drug trials to determine whether they can slow the progression of this devastating illness.

An exciting area of research we are involved in is the study of nerve excitability and its related disorders. NeuRA uses novel physiological techniques to study the transmission of electrical signals through nerves so we can better understand why these signals fail in MND and related disorders.

Our hope is that with a better understanding of nerve physiology and function we may be able to provide new therapeutic strategies for people living with MND. We are investigating the potential for new clinical tests to complement standard nerve conduction studies used in the diagnosis of MND.

Our research is intrinsically linked to local clinical services, particularly at the Prince of Wales Hospital Multidisciplinary MND Clinic located in Randwick, NSW. We also contribute to the Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry.

Our research discoveries

NeuRA’s scientific discoveries have identified a number of potential new therapeutic targets. We were the lead Australian site for the GSK sponsored Study NOG112264 [a Phase II Study of Ozanezumab (GSK1223249) versus Placebo in the Treatment of MND].