MND symptoms develop insidiously and the early stages can be similar to other conditions, which means that diagnosis can sometimes take a year or more. As a result, damage to the nervous system can go undetected before physical symptoms become apparent. Professor Talbot and his research group work as part of the Oxford Motor Neurone Disease Centre, linking the research to clinical care.
The team has already established promising approaches to treatment in patients who currently have the disease. The aim of this new ground-breaking research is to identify people at risk of MND before symptoms occur, so that treatment can be applied at the early stages when it can be more effective and disability can be prevented.
About 10% of patients with MND have a genetic mutation and each of their close relatives (parents, siblings and children) will have a 50% chance of carrying the gene that leads to MND. The research funded by ADF will sign up 300 – 400 ‘at risk’ individuals, who will be carefully monitored to enable the team to pick up the very earliest signals of the disease. The ultimate aim is to produce a blood test that could be used in general practice to screen for the silent damage occurring in the early phase of MND. A cohort study of this kind, linking in with the established MND network, will be unique, and once the cohort is in place, major research funding will also be sought to analyse the samples donated by people taking part in the study.