The Florey and FightMND continue research efforts in the battle against MND

What started out as an ambitious goal written on the floor of her gym to mark the start of 2020 turned into reality for Dr Sophia Luikinga, thanks to record-breaking funding received last year from FightMND to The Florey’s Motor Neurone Disease research group.

Only a year out of her PhD, Dr Sophia Luikinga believed that her pledge to lead a research grant to get closer to cure MND was incredibly ambitious. It was in July 2020, during the height of Melbourne’s second lockdown, when she received the news from FightMND that she had been awarded funding for her grant.

“I am grateful for the ongoing support and confidence in my research that FightMND has shown,” said Dr Luikinga.

“What continues to drive me is the belief that I’ll be able to make a difference for people living with the disease that I study.”

The research investigations that Dr Luikinga is undertaking looks at the signatures of fat cells, called lipids, as a novel biomarker for MND. It builds on her existing research where she identified the importance of lipids inside the neuron for muscle stability and cell survival.

“Ultimately through these studies I hope to develop a blood test that detects lipid markers to more accurately predict disease progression and assess which treatments could be beneficial for MND patients during clinical trials. If successful, a simple blood test like this could be a real game changer for diagnosing MND,” she explained.

Dr Luikinga is part of a large team at The Florey who are investigating and developing new diagnostics and treatments aiming to reach the ultimate goal of a cure for MND. Each taking a different approach, Head of The Florey’s MND research lab, Associate Professor Brad Turner, is working on advancing a drug therapy to clinical trials, while Dr Samantha Barton is developing a 3D grown spinal cord model to study oligodendrocytes and Dr Fazel Shabanpoor is progressing a drug delivery platform targeting the brain and spinal cord.