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MND Update

Delighted to bring an update on the work that the Centre for Brain Research, under Sir Richard Faull is doing at the Auckland University - in the race to find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.

The MND Research Hub is studying several aspects of Motor Neuron Disease (MND), such as the “waste” in neurons that mainly constitutes a nuclear RNA-binding protein known as TDP-43, that forms ‘clumps’ or aggregates in MND. New Zealand has among the highest rates of MND in the world. 90% of MND cases are sporadic (occur for no apparent reason, but could relate to environmental exposures such as chemicals, head trauma, or other factors – we just don't know). 10% are genetic cases. The MND Hub is the only dedicated MND Lab in New Zealand so the University of Auckland plays a key leadership role in NZ MND research.

Dr Molly Swanson is one of Dr Emma Scotter’s current post-doctoral research fellows. She works in the area of "brain pathology" which is when something goes wrong in the brain. Dr Swanson investigates neurons and microglia - the glia are like little gobblers of waste (imagine the 1980s Pac-Man gobbling up the balls in the maze). Dr Swanson is looking at brain tissue from mice and humans.

Maize Cao one of Dr Emma Scotter’s current PhD students. She investigates what goes wrong with RNA when TDP-43 clumps. An analogy for this research is that a cell is like a restaurant, and DNA the menu. RNA is the specific order chosen from the restaurant’s menu to have food (proteins) made– Maize is looking at errors in the orders in MND that cause unpalatable food to come out!

The aim of both of these types of research is to help people with Motor Neuron Disease and to find drug targets. Emma says "You can't hit your target, unless you know what it is" so that is why they are studying the "nuts and bolts" of MND, the TDP-43 clumps, the RNA, changes in proteins and so on. Thank you for helping the Centre for Brain Research and our highly-skilled researchers.


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