Working to predict early on-set and progression of motor neurone disease (MND)

Professor Aaron Russell will measure and compare changes in blood proteins to try and identify ways to accurately detect motor neurone disease (MND) and pinpoint how long a person has lived with the disease.

In a project funded through a FightMND Impact Grant, Professor Russell will use a recently developed preclinical model of sporadic MND to identify biomarkers for early detection, disease progression and therapeutic efficiency in MND.

Professor Russell said the lack of reliable biofluid biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis of the disease had been a major stumbling block in developing a cure for MND.

“This new model allows for MND to be precisely initiated, halted and reversed, allowing us to know exactly when to look for early diagnostic biomarkers before symptoms appear,” he said.

“We’re also able to identify prognostic biomarkers as MND progresses and biomarkers of recovery that may assist in quickly recognising if drugs designed to treat MND are effective.”

Professor Russell and his team will use the latest proteomics and bioinformatics technologies.

“If successful, this project could deliver a suite of new biomarker signatures for use in current and future clinical trials to accurately measure treatment responsiveness,” Professor Russell said.

“By enabling the identification of MND patients with a similar prognostic outlook, the biomarkers could also improve clinical trial outcomes.”

In addition to this project, Professor Russell and his team are developing are new mouse model to specifically study the role of skeletal muscle in MND on-set and progression, with experiments to commence in the second half of 2022.