Brian’s family welcomes scientists’ breakthrough

Brian MacDonald's family welcomes news of a possible MND breakthrough by scientists.

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News that scientists are a step closer to being able to reverse motor neurone disease (MND) damage, has been welcomed as ‘fantastic’ by an Oban family.

John MacDonald, whose brother Brian died last year after battling the disease, said although it had come too late for his family, he hoped and prayed it would be the breakthrough everyone has been hoping for.

The study by University of Edinburgh experts, who have discovered a  problem with MND patients’ nerve cells could be repaired by repurposing drugs approved for other diseases, has also been greeted as ‘exciting’ by MND charities including the foundation set up by Scots rugby legend Doddie Weir.

Retired firefighter Brian had hoped to take part in a ground-breaking drugs trial in search of new treatment when Covid hit and lockdown stopped it.

More than 1,500 people are diagnosed with the degenerative condition in the UK every year. There is no known cure and more than half die within two years of diagnosis.

Scientists have found that in human stem cell models of MND, the long part of the motor neuron cell that connects to the muscle is actually shorter than in healthy cells, impairing the power supply that travels up them. Boosting that power supply can help protect from degeneration.

Dr Arpan Mehta, who led the study at Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research, said work was already under way to identify existing licensed drugs that could boost that power supply and repair damaged motor neurons.

‘This will then pave the way to test them in clinical trials,’ he added.

Craig Stockton, the chief executive of MND Scotland, said the results of the research were another piece of the puzzle to finding an effective treatment.

‘We look forward to seeing if these positive results can be replicated for patients.
Once researchers have identified a drug they believe could have the desired effect, this treatment could then be fast-tracked for human trials using the pioneering MND-SMART clinical trial platform – into which MND Scotland has invested £1.5m.

‘Researchers, clinicians, charities and supporters are all working hard to take us closer to finding a cure and by joining together we’ll get to that day even sooner,’ he said.

Brian MacDonald’s brother John told The Oban Times: ‘This is fantastic news. I wished it had came earlier to save our Brian but this will hopefully stop other families going through what we went through. I honestly hope and pray this is the breakthrough everyone has been hoping for.’