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  (Source: scielo.br)

Stephen Hawking has a motor neurone disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)  (Source: the-wanderling.com)
Ongoing BioMOx study reveals nerve damage pattern in the brains of MND patients

The Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association and the Medical Research Council (MRC), along with researchers from the University of Oxford, have joined forces to conduct the Oxford Study for Biomarkers in MND/ALS (BioMOx). This resulted in the identification of a common signature of nerve damage in patients who have MND. 

Dr. Martin Turner and his team from the University of Oxford have discovered a "unique similarity" between nerve damage found in the region of the brain which connects the motor neurones to the brain, and nerve damage found in the corpus callosum, which is a region of the brain that acts as a connection between the right and left sides. 

Until now, patients with MND have had to wait too long for a diagnosis of MND because MND research was hindered by the lack of predictable markers, or biomarkers, of the progression of the disease. Researchers also lacked an early diagnostic test. With the use of an MND biomarker, MND patients can be diagnosed more quickly and accurately, which is the main goal of the BioMOx study. 

"The BioMOx study is one of the largest biomarker studies for MND in the world," said Dr. Brian Dickie, director of research development at the MND Association. "It's very encouraging to hear the first exciting results emerging from this four-year initiative."

In this particular study, researchers scanned healthy brains as well as brains that contained MND damage using an advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique. Every six months, researchers for the BioMOx study followed changes in the brain, in blood and in spinal cord fluid of people with MND. By scanning and comparing specific areas of the brain, Turner and his team were able to find a pattern of nerve damage within MND patients, which has led to the discovery of a MND biomarker. 

"The finding of a common pattern of nerve pathway damage in a varied group of MND patients holds the promise of a much needed biomarker," said Turner. "This study confirms the ability of advanced MRI techniques to sensitively detect nerve damage in a wide range of people living with MND. It builds on a decade of international work, and shows that MRI is now a frontrunner in the quest to generate biomarkers of disease activity in MND." 

Researchers hope to use what they've discovered in the BioMOx study to develop improved treatments for patients with MND. 

"MRI scanning provides an exciting 'window on the brain,' allowing researchers to link the changes occurring in the central nervous system with the 'real world' symptoms of MND," said Dickie. "Understanding these changing events is going to be central to the development of future treatments."



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Hawking and ALS
By MozeeToby on 11/5/2010 12:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
The more time passes the more experts think that Hawking doesn't actually have ALS but some similar, possibly related, disorder. No one, not one single other person, has survived anything like as long as he has after being diagnosed, let alone in the essentially paralyzed state that he is in. It would be interesting to see if he has the biomarker that they discovered, it might answer the question once and for all if their test is accurate enough.




RE: Hawking and ALS
By UsernameX on 11/5/2010 12:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The more time passes the more experts think that Hawking doesn't actually have ALS but some similar, possibly related, disorder. No one, not one single other person, has survived anything like as long as he has after being diagnosed, let alone in the essentially paralyzed state that he is in. It would be interesting to see if he has the biomarker that they discovered, it might answer the question once and for all if their test is accurate enough.


This is very interesting. I didn't know that!

Perhaps it's because I don't pay enough attention to the medical field, but it seems that within the last 10 years we've made little progress to any major disease. Sure we might identify it in it's early stages more easily, but I've never seen a report that we've stopped X disease in it's tracks, or better yet cured it!

I've got a rare eye disease Choroideremia. I donate monthly and look at their website every day in hopes for a cure.. or at least stop it's progression. We live in an advanced culture but it seems to be moving at a snails pace.

My two cent rant :)


RE: Hawking and ALS
By Snow01 on 11/5/2010 2:40:45 PM , Rating: 2
Typically you need to first find out what causes something before you can begin work on curing it. The problem you mention is primarily due to hitting a wall, so to speak, on the level of easily observable and testable phenomena. Really, if you think about it, the only thing we've really managed to cure is bacterial infections, and long term it's likely that bacteria will become largely resistant to known antibiotics. Sure, immunizations were a major breakthrough as well (polio, etc.), but that's definitely different than a cure.

The current research paradigm involves many people each focusing on a specific element, the sharing of that knowledge, and then hopefully at some point we'll have enough peices of the puzzle to solve a particular problem. You're right, it is an agonizingly slow, tedious process.


RE: Hawking and ALS
By Solandri on 11/5/2010 3:01:11 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Perhaps it's because I don't pay enough attention to the medical field, but it seems that within the last 10 years we've made little progress to any major disease.

It isn't that we've made little progress in the last 10 years. It's that all the low-hanging fruit has already been picked, and all that's left are the high-hanging ones that are difficult to reach.

The diseases which are easily prevented by vaccination (polio, measles, etc) have been mostly eliminated in the West. The crown jewel of modern medicine - the eradication of smallpox - was only possible because the disease cannot survive in any animal other than humans. Bacterial infections were mostly held in check with antibiotics.

The diseases which remain are somehow immune or resistant to the easy cures. Influenza mutates frequently enough that vaccination is not very effective. Malaria survives in a wide variety of species so we can't just eradicate it like we did smallpox. Cancer in particular is a tough nut to crack because it's your body's own cells going out of control. There's very little to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells, and thus it's difficult to target the disease while sparing the body. And AIDS attacks the very cells in your body whose job it is to fight off foreign pathogens.

Medicine is progressing faster than ever. It's just that the remaining diseases are much more complicated to overcome.


RE: Hawking and ALS
By Everyone on 11/8/2010 9:58:42 AM , Rating: 2
This is very true.

Another important point is that these difficult to cure diseases that have been presenting so much difficulty actually have had a significant amount of progress made on them.

Everyone holds out for a cure for HIV (as an example), which we all know has not been achieved yet. However what many do not realize is that anti-retroviral therapy developed in the past decade has turned AIDS from a death-sentence, into a very manageable disease. The life-expectancy of HIV+ patients has increased dramatically just in the past few years alone, and shockingly enough is starting to approach the life expectancy of a normal, healthy person (approaching... not there yet!)

This same case holds true for a number of cancers as well, and too many other less-well-known diseases to list.


RE: Hawking and ALS
By mac2j on 11/5/2010 12:58:31 PM , Rating: 2
Actually thats not entirely true - about 1-5% of ALS patients follow a similar course to Stephen Hawkings.

The long survival in the paralyzed state is largely a function of the round the clock supportive care he gets and the lack of lung involvement.

BUT you're correct - there are 3 or 4 major patterns of ALS from very rapid (less than 1 yr survival from diagnosis) to the Hawking type at the other extreme. These likely represent different underlying genetic causes with the same outcome - motor neuron death ... determining and understanding what these are is essential to curing this horrible disease.


RE: Hawking and ALS
By Malhavoc on 11/5/2010 2:05:41 PM , Rating: 2
My father was diagnosed with ALS 10-12 years ago but it is thought that symptoms started coming about 20+ years ago but were not very severe and not identified at the time. Progress of the diesase has been slow overall but has sped up over the last few years where he needs 24hr care.

In the last year or two some of his doctor's believe it is not ALS and something yet undiagnosed and one quack told him he'd walk again last year but the quack went and died.

I know of at least 2 others within 50 km radius that have similar longevity after being diagnosed with ALS.


RE: Hawking and ALS
By ssjwes1980 on 11/5/2010 9:41:53 PM , Rating: 2
My Grandfather had it for 16 years when he was 12 years in he started to seem to get better for about a year the Doctors could explain it but in the end it progressed again and killed him. Glad they are finding new stuff out


RE: Hawking and ALS
By William Gaatjes on 11/7/2010 12:49:39 PM , Rating: 3
Just wait until it is finally accepted that there is a genetic factor and an environment factor. Because of the difficulties of detection it will be a while before it is accepted that viruses are more common in the body then assumed. As well that most diseases require multiple pathogens to happen and not a 1 pathogen disease as are the crown jewels of modern medicine.

Add in the fact that the modern medicine industry is corrupted only to make money.

An example ? Adolescent boys Getting an ADHD medicine and developing breasts as a side effect...


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