This insight opens up the possibilities for developing new treatments to treat these devastating progressive conditions. The research is published today (17 November 2008) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and is funded by BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) with the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.
Lead researcher Professor Patricia Salinas said: "For decades we have been studying how nerves communicate with their target muscles and we know that in diseases like MND the sites of contact between nerves and muscles become weak. However, many mysteries remain as to how these contacts form under normal circumstances and therefore it has been very difficult to see what has gone wrong in MND. The work we are publishing today puts another important piece of the puzzle in place and offers up a new possibility for developing drugs to treat MND and other neurodegenerative diseases."
Professor Salinas, with her husband Dr Simon Hughes - a researcher at King's College London - has found that a signalling molecule called Wnt3 plays a crucial role in creating the connections, or synapses, between nerves and the muscles they control. It does this by assisting another molecule called Agrin, which coordinates construction of the synapse and organises the elements that make up the connection.
Professor Salinas continued: "Without properly formed synapses the muscle cannot receive the nerve signal that tells it to contract and hence we see the muscle weakness that is classic in MND. If we can build up a thorough picture to show how synapses are normally formed between nerves and muscles we can start to look for any elements that aren't working properly in people with MND. This might also lead to strategies for nerve repair after an injury."
The team of researchers have looked at the function of Wnt signals in chickens, mice and in cells and in all three cases it was shown to enhance the effectiveness of Agrin.
Professor Salinas added: "Chickens that don't have the Wnt signal in their developing wings have all of the muscle tissue that we would expect to see, but they don't make strong connections between nerves and muscles. So we know that Wnt is definitely affecting synapse formation rather than anything else to do with muscles. Now that we understand the role Wnt plays we can begin to explore any role it plays in MND and whether it could be a good target for treating this type of neurodegenerative disease."
Professor Janet Allen, BBSRC Director of Research said: "We are delighted to see that work funded by BBSRC is making an impact on the understanding of serious conditions like MND. When scientists ask questions about normal biological processes they are often doing work that underpins better health and well being for people in the future."
Dr Belinda Cupid, Research Manager, MND Association, said: "We know from recent research that signs of motor neurone damage, on a cellular level, in models of MND occur very much earlier than the symptoms appear, so any new knowledge of how healthy motor neurones and muscles interact will give us new clues about what might be going wrong in those people affected by this cruel disease."
Warming ponds could accelerate climate change
21.02.2017 | University of Exeter
An alternative to opioids? Compound from marine snail is potent pain reliever
21.02.2017 | University of Utah
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering
21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News