Exploring possible therapies for motor neurone disease

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a type of motor neurone disease affecting communication between the brain and muscles, causing progressive loss of muscle control. 

Through a grant from Motor Neurone Disease Australia, Professor Aaron Russell is exploring a new therapeutic strategy which he hopes will eventually lead to an effective treatment for ALS. 

He is attempting to alter the skeletal muscle environment in a pre-clinical mouse model of human ALS, so that communication between the muscles and the brain lasts longer as the disease progresses.   

To do this, he is injecting a specific virus known as an adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver a protein called neuturin (NRTN) to the muscle of the mice. Previous research in healthy mice has demonstrated that this approach is capable of altering the muscle environment in a way that will strengthen communication between the muscle and the brain.  

“In the future, identifying therapeutic approaches that repair or delay this loss in communication between the muscles and the brain will hopefully provide meaningful treatment options for people with ALS,” he said.  

If the project is successful, Professor Russell will have identified a new way to maintain the muscle-brain connection, therefore slowing down the disease’s progression.  

“This project also has the potential to clarify the importance of the local skeletal muscle environment in ALS disease development and progression and to identify other potential targets to be considered for therapeutic manipulation,” Professor Russell said.