The University of Queensland’s research may eventually contribute to the creation of effective MND therapies and, ultimately, a cure.

The Queensland Brain Institute’s Dr. Adam Walker and co-authors Drs. Rebecca San Gil, Wei Luan, and PhD candidate Sean Keating have discovered biochemical alterations in a protein that are impacted by MND.

Every cell in the body contains the protein TDP-43, but motor neurons—the brain cells that regulate voluntary muscle movement—are of particular importance for maintaining their health.

“We conducted two studies to examine the mechanisms behind the malfunctioning of TDP-43 proteins in motor neurons.

We discovered that pathogenic forms of TDP-43 can harm good forms of the protein, possibly leading to a cycle of dysfunction and aging. Co-author Sean Keating said the research also found neural pathways change as MND progresses, indicating the potential need for different treatments at different phases of the disease.

“We are now treating genetically modified mice with MND with different pharmaceutical drugs that specifically target the underlying causes of the disease, and correct the disease mechanism,” Mr Keating said.

“Our aim is to stop the TDP-43 degenerative cycle and halt the progression of the disease.

“This research improves our understanding of MND, and we hope it will play an important role in the fight against the disease.”

The research was supported by grants and investment from FightMND, the Maclean Family, the Thornton Foundation, MND Research Australia and the Brazil Family Program for Neurology.

The research was published in Molecular Psychiatry and Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.