New motor neuron disease research in St Andrews

Dr Gareth Miles of St Andrews University, lead researcher into motor neurons.
Dr Gareth Miles of St Andrews University, lead researcher into motor neurons.
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Scientists at the University of St Andrews have discovered new ways of studying what happens to motor neurons affected by Motor Neuron Disease (MND) by using stem cells derived from patient skin samples.

The joint research project led by scientists from the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh has shown that even before they show any signs of damage, motor neurons affected by MND lose the ability to generate the electrical signals required to make muscles contract due to changes in specialised proteins called ion channels.

Dr Gareth Miles from the University of St Andrews and lead researcher on the project, said: “Learning more about how and why motor neurons are lost in MND plays a crucial role in developing new treatments and ultimately finding a cure for this devastating disease. Using new developments in stem cell technology has enabled us to compare the function of motor neurons from healthy individuals with those from patients suffering from different forms of MND.”

MND is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that attacks motor neurons, specialised nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing the loss of signals from the brain to muscles and eventually leading to paralysis. Approximately 5000 people in the UK live with MND at any one time, with approximately five people dying of the disease every day. There is currently no cure for MND and treatment options are limited.