Researcher: “MND is not an incurable disease. It is an underfunded disease”
The Trinity Times recently interviewed Prof. Orla Hardiman on the subject of motor neuron disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Professor Hardiman heads the neurology departments in Dublin’s Beaumont and Trinity Hospitals. Her lab consists of thirty dedicated scientists.
She has spent most of her professional career working to advance treatments for MND. It was a dearth of treatment that led to her focus on this rare, deadly, neurodegenerative disease. (2 people in 100,000)
About Motor Neuron Disease (MND)
MND, a neurological disorder, destroys the cells that control critical muscle activity. These activities include breathing, speaking, swallowing (upper motor neurons), and walking (lower motor neurons).
Messages are normally transmitted from the brain’s nerve cells to the spinal cord and brain stem. From there they are transmitted to specific muscles.
In MND the signals that are normally transmitted to the muscles from the lowest level of motor neurons are interrupted. The muscles cannot function properly and gradually begin to waste away.
A similar occurrence takes place with disruptions in signals transmitted between upper and lower motor neurons. In this case, muscles in the limb become stiff and limit movement. Gradually MND patients are no longer in control of their voluntary movement. Lifespan after diagnosis may only be two to three years.
Still Searching for the Cause and the Treatment
Researchers have found that MND may be inherited in some cases. The cause of the majority of cases is still unknown even though the disease is currently being researched by “thousands” of scientists and others in the medical field.
Regarding treatment, Professor Hardiman explains that it is difficult to get the attention of pharmaceutical companies when it comes to developing new drugs. For the time being, there is no treatment for MND.
One Positive Note
Researchers now find that the risk of dying from MND is lower in areas where the population consists of mixed races. Cuba is an example. Cubans who are of African and Spanish descent have lower MND death rates than people of only Spanish descent. These findings agree with years of researching other genetic disorders.
Professor Hardiman is a fervent believer that with a strong, dedicated research team and its collaborative efforts, they will make a difference in finding the cause and developing an effective treatment for MND.