Portrait no.22

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22 of 26 Professor Dame Pamela Shaw is a big hitter in the world of MND. She was made a dame in 2014 for her internationally recognised contribution to neurosciences, and particularly through the pioneering work she leads at SITran – The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience. “The first gene that was found to cause familial MND was back in 1993 and it’s called SOD1 – Not a bad name for a disease that causes MND! That gene code is for a protein whose normal function is to scavenge the free radicals that we produce as our cells are generating energy. There are now about thirty genes we’ve found that can cause MND. A tiny change in one building block of the SOD1 gene causes familial MND. At SITran we’ve shown that if you knock out that SOD1 gene with gene therapy you can just about cure mice of MND and the mice remain fine because there are other proteins that can do the same job. We are doing a human trial. There are various ways of doing gene therapy. One, which is the method we used in the mice, is to use a viral carrier (or vector) where the virus is harmless but we put inside the viral carrier a molecule and when it gets into the nervous system it knocks down the level of SOD1. In Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is a childhood form of MND, that viral vector has been used to knock out SOD1 in children with SMA in a US trial. Children with SMA usually die of their MND within 2 years of being born. One dose of that viral vector and those kids are now normal toddlers so it’s fantastic! It will come for adult MND as well shortly I hope. In the meantime there’s a way of injecting a substance known as ASO. A lumbar puncture injection of this and that knocks down the SOD1 gene. It’s an international study and SiTran is the UK site. We’ve been doing it for about 18 months. The first two patients that we put into the trial have been sending videos of themselves walking up the garden steps that they hadn’t been able to do for three years. I’ve done probably twenty-four new treatment trials in MND and I have never ever heard people say they have improved before in a trial.” To help donate here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

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Portrait no.21

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21 of 26 Jay Parker had been in his job as social media officer for the MND Association for five months when we interviewed him at their HQ, David Niven House in 2015. “MND ranks quite highly on the cruelty scale. It seems like torture to me. I couldn’t imagine having it. It has scared me and it makes me want to do things sooner in life rather than later just in case there’s something awful lurking round the corner. Since starting here I’ve seen lots of documentaries and things like that about people who have lived a normal life, quite happy then suddenly were just struck down with MND and it destroyed their lives. So yeah, it’s high up there for a terrible disease. In my job in social media we can measure success in numbers. Since the Ice Bucket Challenge the likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter have more than doubled. My goal would be to keep raising that awareness. Making sure people know what MND is. In fact I’m even doing that in my own family. I’ve only been here five months but I’ve fed back everything I’m learning in this job straight to my family – My sister and mum and dad. They’d not heard of MND either but now they feel exactly the same way as me. They all think it’s absolutely horrible.” To help the MND Association donate using this URL https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂