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Risk environments put to the test in new MND research

Research | Newsroom

A team of Tasmanian researchers will lead a new study into how interactions between an individual’s genetics and the environment in which they live contribute to motor neurone disease (MND).

Associate Professor Tony Cook, from the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, received $999, 981 from FightMND’s latest funding round for the research

“Understanding how genetic factors interact with environmental exposures is critical to advancing knowledge about the causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of MND,” Associate Professor Cook said.

The team will use human adult stem cells to make motor neurons that contain gene variants linked with MND and expose them to a variety of environmental risk factors for the disease including pesticides, cholesterol and cyanotoxins such as those found in blue-green algae.

Investigators will look for key changes and deterioration in the structure, activity, and health of motor neurons containing the ALS-associated gene variants as they engage with ‘risk environments’.

“ALS can develop due to interactions between an individual’s genetics and the environment in which they live, where the culmination of lifestyle and genetic factors increases the person’s risk of developing ALS,” Associate Professor Cook said.

“The work will help us understand how ALS develops and why cells are vulnerable to genetic and environmental interactions.”

MND is a progressive, terminal neurological disease. Two people are diagnosed with the disease every day in Australia, and there is no truly effective treatment and no known cure.

FightMND, the national charity, announced $13.4 million into Motor Neurone Disease (MND) research to find better treatments and a cure. Twenty-five research projects from across Australia were funded in the latest round.