Florey News

New MND grants supporting basic research

The MND Research Institute of Australia has awarded $3.31 million to support the best MND research commencing in 2018. 

Florey and Florey-associated researchers have been fortunate enough to receive several of these grants, including Dr Nirma Perera, who was awarded the Bill Gole MND postdoctoral fellowship, for her grant "Targeting autophagy protein homeostasis pathway to improve motor neurone health in MND".

Thank you to the MNDRIA and congratulations to all successful applicants!

Dr Dominic Hare - Jenny Simko MND Research Grant: The elemental signature of MND

All life is a mixture of chemical elements. Everything cells do result from precisely balanced ratios and reactions of nearly 30 essential elements. Disease must also start as chemical reactions and disturbances of this delicate equilibrium. Using advanced technology, minuscule shifts in element ratios can be mapped and measured to determine how, when and where chemical reactions that cause MND happen. Capturing the unique ‘elemental signature’ of MND will both help understand how essential elements like copper, iron and zinc are involved in MND, and provide a new laboratory test that may detect MND years earlier than currently possible.

Dr Thomas Oxley - Grant McKenzie MND Research Grant: Minimally invasive brain-controlled communication and navigation

MND has the devastating consequence of limiting people’s independence and communication. Fortunately, for many, the portion of the brain responsible for movement remains intact and enables is to utilize signals to control assistive devices. However, due to invasive surgical methods, translation of existing technology has not progressed to clinical application. Our technology (STENTRODEtm) is the only existing method of extracting brain signals from within a blood vessel, which mitigates the risks associated with open-brain surgery. Having demonstrated that a Stentrode can record clinically relevant brain signals we now aim to translate this into early feasibility in a world-first human trial.

A/Prof Justin Rubio - Jenny Simko MND Research Grant: A precision genomics approach to dissect the pathogenesis of MND

Genetic research has revealed important insight into the causes of MND, but there is still much to learn. We propose that the DNA genome of surviving neural cells in people who died from MND contains “hidden” information about the causes and progression of disease. To “unlock” this genomic information we have developed the means to isolate and interrogate the entire genome of single neurons from brain tissue donated for research. We expect that this research will improve understanding of MND biology and ultimately lead to the identification of new drug targets. 

Dr Lachlan Thompson - MNDRIA Grant-in-aid: An optimised immuno-suppression treatment for pre-clinical development of human cell based therapies for MND using rat models   Unlike other parts of the body, the nervous system has a very poor capacity to repair itself. This means that damage, for example through the neurodegenerative process that occurs in motor neuron disease (MND), is irreversible and has permanent functional consequences for the patient. Most of the experimental therapies under development are protective strategies that aim to stop or slow the on-going disease process but do not in any way address the damage that has already occurred. This project aims to use human stem cells to generate new neurons that can one day replace those lost to the disease.  

Dr Bradley Turner - MNDRIA Grant-in-aid: Targeting exosome-mediated propagation of protein misfolding in MND   One characteristic feature of MND is the progressive and systematic spread of symptoms from one region of the body to another, suggesting anatomical spread of the underlying motor neuron pathology. We recently identified a mechanism for disease protein spread in MND carried out by microscopic secretory particles called exosomes.  In this project, we will investigate whether targeting exosomes using a drug approach can slow the disease course, motor neuron loss and protein pathology in MND mice.  If supported, our study will encourage future targeting of the exosome pathway to interfere with disease protein spread to potentially slow progression of MND.