A pioneering study led by a University of Sheffield lecturer, reveals an unforeseen destructive cell found in patients with Motor Neurone Disease.
Dr Laura Ferraiuolo from the department of ‘Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience’ (SITraN) and her team began their research in the United States at the Kaspar Laboratory based at the nationwide Children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
MND is an incurable rare condition that affects around two in every 100,000 people in the UK each year. The disease affects the motor neurones in the body through the progressive degeneration of the neurones and the wasting away of muscles. The physicist Dr Stephen Hawking suffers from this disease.
Her team developed a technique of taking and growing skin cells, from skin biopsy, and through a lengthy process created cells called Oligodendrocytes. “Theses cells support the neurones and their main job in the brain is to wrap around neurones and facilitate electric signals travelling to other neurons.”
She retells the moment she found out these ground-breaking results. “It was very much a wow moment for me. Initially, I was very enthusiastic I started thinking what does this mean and what can I do with it, but a split second later, I was thinking, before I get excited and my mind runs too far, we need to repeat this”.
When asked what this news means for patients with Motor Neurone Disease, she reassured that despite sounding like bad news, the discovery is a great advantage to the world of medical science, as it has enabled preventative measures to be taken. “This opens the doors for drugs cleanings and finding drugs that stop this toxicity, so it’s a huge advantage”.
Dr Ferraiuolo and her colleagues have started working on Parkinson and Alzheimer disease. “These findings, are promising for the future in medical advancements, the discovery has created an opportunity to set collaborations in place in treating other ailments”.