HEALTH

New Test Offers Hope For Motor Neuron Disease Sufferers

It is estimated that two Australians are diagnosed with MND each day.

23/02/2017 7:27 AM AEDT | Updated 24/02/2017 8:28 AM AEDT
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The testing measures urinary protein p75ECD, a biomarker of MND progression.

An innovative test developed in South Australia has the potential to accelerate the quest to develop effective treatments for Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

The test measures the urinary protein p75ECD, a key biomarker found in the urine of MND sufferers as the disease progresses.

Senior research fellow at Flinders University, Dr Mary-Louise Rogers, believes that if the testing of the protein were to be used in clinical trials it could aid in finding effective treatments for the deadly neuro-degenerative disease.

"It is the first time something has been found that we can measure and that progresses with the disease," Rogers told The Huffington Post Australia.

"The next phase of us using this in the future is in clinical trials... We are hoping to roll it out soon, but basically it will be used to see whether a treatment has worked or not.

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The urinary protein 75ECD is currently the only biological-fluid-based biomarker of MND progression.

"For example, if the treatment has worked, we hope to see less of this substance released... Or it stops and stays the same.

"In clinical trials, it's also important for drugs that don't work to be shelved -- we can use it [the test] to not only look for effective drugs but to also look for ineffective drugs."

The urine samples of 31 individuals across Australia and the United States were measured as a part of the study, with results demonstrating that levels of p75ECD increased in MND sufferers as the disease progressed.

Dr Rogers highlighted that she was hopeful the findings would lead to increased funding, with the potential of expanding into clinical trials within the next few years as current tests for the disease are questionnaire-based. It is her hope that the use of the test would deliver much-needed objective results.

"A standardised, easy-to-collect urine test could be used as a more accurate progression and prognostic biomarker in clinical trials," she said.

"And in the future, it also could potentially be used to test people for early signs of pre-familial MND progression."

At present, there is no cure for MND, which causes the motor neurons or nerve cells that control muscle movements to slowly die.

While there is one approved drug that has the potential to improve some sufferers' lifespan by at least three to five months, a diagnosis is effectively a death sentence, with most people dying within three to five years.



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