Motor Neurone Disease Global Awareness Day

The Centre for Brain Research has collaborated with the Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand and Massey University in writing a press release to mark Motor Neurone Disease Global Awareness Day (June 21) – you can read exerpts from it below.


The Motor Neurone Disease Association welcomes research that may shed light on causes of MND

On Motor Neurone Disease Global Awareness Day, the Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand has welcomed two exciting research projects in New Zealand that could shed light on the causes of motor neurone disease (MND).

Brain researchers at the Centre for Brain Research at The University of Auckland are looking at why and how the brain and spinal cord cells die in MND; and, in a separate study, Massey University is looking into possible occupational and environmental risk factors that may cause the disease. With no known cure and around 300 people in New Zealand currently living with MND, Acting National Manager of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Grant Diggle says finding out the causes is critical in the fight against MND. “About 100 people in New Zealand die from MND and another 100 are diagnosed each year. Research like this can help us to make real progress in understanding the causes of MND and to finding effective treatments,” says Mr Diggle.

MND New Zealand patron and Centre for Brain Research Director, Professor Richard Faull says researchers at The University of Auckland-based centre, led by Professor Dragunow, are using new techniques in their research. “While our research is still in the early stages, what is very exciting is that we have developed specialised techniques for studying this precious human tissue. “In particular, we have developed cell culturing techniques which enable us to directly study what influences the death of cells in MND, as well as other brain disorders,” says Professor Faull.  Using human brain cell culture techniques, the centre has been able to directly study the cells that cause brain inflammation to try to understand how they contribute to cell death in the human brain and spinal cord. “We are also testing new treatments on these human brain cells to identify potential new drugs that may slow brain cell death in MND and other brain disorders,” Professor Faull says.

In a separate study, funding by the Health Research Council is enabling Massey University researchers to undertake New Zealand’s first comprehensive survey into links between occupational and environmental backgrounds of those with MND.