A New Research Frontier for Motor Neurone Disease Could Help Lead to Better Treatments

Australian Rotary Health/Rotary Club of Spring Bay Funding Partner PhD Scholarship recipient Dr Anjan Bhattarai has recently published a new paper that brings us one step closer in helping diagnosing the early stages of Motor Neuron Disease.

Motor Neuron Disease (MND) affects around 1,400 people in Australia, primarily people in their mid-50s. With no cure, MND’s survival is approximately 2-5 years from the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, there remains challenges to diagnose and examine MND when it begins because of the lack of reliable tests and biomarkers.

This paper forms part of Dr Bhattarai’s PhD research into the use of novel MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) techniques to establish neuro-imaging biomarkers that assess the early stages of MND, in hope to improve reliable diagnosis of the disease.

Dr Bhattarai and a team of researchers investigated whether a computational model called ‘Network Diffusion’, could help determine the severity and progression of neurodegeneration in limb-onset MND. The study found that patients with MND had a significant loss of brain volume observed at 6-months, with further loss at 12-months, compared to the control group. They were able to identify the brain networks responsible for pathological spread of MND, particularly in an area of the motor cortex, known as the extra-motor regions.

“Although MND is known to affect the motor cortex (the part of the brain involved in planning, control, and voluntary movement), our results suggest that the disease may start from the extra-motor regions,” Dr Bhattarai said.

“These findings suggest vulnerability of both extra-motor and motor brain regions in MND, which are in line with the view that MND is a syndrome involving multiple brain regions rather than a purely motor disorder.”

Dr Bhattarai believes that further understanding of these findings can potentially inform further research in the design of disease modifying therapeutic interventions. Such interventions could change the way we treat MND and ultimately the life quality of people living with MND.

Dr Bhattarai completed his PhD in 2021. Read the full article here.

Media contact: Jessica Cooper – jessica@arh.org.au

Media contact: Alexander Galati – alexander@arh.org.au

First published 9th October, 2022

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