What is MND?
Nerves in our brain and spinal cord control how our muscles work. These are called motor neurones. Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the motor neurones. In MND, motor neurones stop telling the muscles how to move. When muscles no longer move, they become weak. The symptoms can include loss of mobility, difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing. The ‘ice bucket challenge’ and the film ‘The Theory of Everything’ has helped raise awareness of MND.
6 people/day are diagnosed with MND in the UK. It affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time.
There is no cure for MND. Currently, there are only supportive measures.
On average, MND kills a third of people within one year and more than half within two years of diagnosis
This work will explore the newly discovered link between the gut microbiome and the brain.
There is growing interest in how the gut microbes influences health and different diseases.
What is the aim of our work?
In animals, the gut microbes influence the cells in the brain that control inflammation. We call these cells microglia. The microglia are central in MND and other diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. We suspect the microglia may be able to protect the motor neurones early in MND. If this is the case, then it will open up new areas of research.
We will study ‘real world’ patients with MND to establish the connection between the gut microbiota and the microglia. This will involve non-invasive scans of the brain and muscle of patients to understand the influence of the gut microbiota on the progression of this terrible disease. Finally, in a small proof of concept study, we will influence the gut microbiota to see if we can alter microglia function.
The potential impact of the work is broad. Not only would it open up new potential treatments for MND but it could help with other diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.