Motor neurone hope5th October 2007
Scientists have said they may have discovered a way to stop the development of motor neurone disease (MND).
Around 5,000 people have MND in the UK. The condition, which is more prevalent in men than women, is diagnosed in one or two people in every 100,000 each year.
MND gradually causes the cells involved in enabling muscle action to become damaged and die. Sufferers die when the muscles used for breathing are affected.
Researchers working at Bath University have published their findings in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. The team found a connection between the gene used to form blood vessels and the development of some types of MND.
The scientists say that "mutant versions" of the product of the gene - known as angiogenin - are "toxic to motor neurones". In theory, stopping this process could halt MND.
Since the discovery in 2006 that some MND sufferers have this mutant version of the gene, scientist have been looking at angionen's effect on motor neurones.
Lead researcher Dr Vasanta Subramanian said: "If we can block the function of the faulty angiogenin in patients in which it is present, this may help to maintain healthy neurones and prevent further progression of the disease."
Dr Belinda Cupid, of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said that research into the disease was extremely difficult because "over 95% of cases remain unknown."
She said the results were "important" and "exciting".
The researchers have studied MND in mice and hope to continue their research in order to further explore angiogenin's effects.
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