We’ve come a long way since a famous American baseball player first raised awareness of motor neuron disease to a grief-stricken nation. Today, Aussie researchers are trialling two promising new drugs in the quest for a cure.
Motor neuron disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases that causes nerve cell degeneration, impairing the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow. The neurons that control these muscles eventually die, causing muscles to weaken and waste away. MND is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease in the USA.
Lou Gehrig’s death raises awareness of ALS
Lou Gehrig played first base for the iconic New York Yankees baseball team back in the 1920s and 30s. He is remembered for leading his team to an incredible six World Series titles and had set the record for the most consecutive games played when he was forced to retire in 1939 after being diagnosed with ALS. Just two years later he was dead, shocking the entire nation.
How could such a healthy young man be cut down in his prime, and what was this unknown disease that took his life so swiftly? In the midst of their grief, America wanted answers to the mystery of Gehrig’s untimely death. His diagnosis, raised public awareness about ALS, a devastating disease that strips nerve cells of their ability to interact with the body’s muscles. In honour of his passing, it became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Hope for MND sufferers with new drug breakthrough in trials
While much has been learnt about MND there is still much we don’t know. The exciting news is that researchers from the University of Queensland have developed a drug with the potential to delay the progression of MND. Early animal trials of the anti-inflammatory drug PMX205 have been promising, and human trials are set to go ahead in 2019. Current treatments only prolong survival for two or three months, and it is hoped that PMX205 can improve those outcomes.
There is no known cure for MND at present, a terminal disease with an average life expectancy of two and a half years. But another group of Aussie researchers is hoping to make a breakthrough with clinical trials of Copper-ATSM as a potential treatment option. Developed in Melbourne, it is hoped that these trials will bring us even closer to a cure. The experimental Cu-ATSM molecule has now been developed into a pharmaceutical suitable for human administration, and they are now recruiting patients for clinical trials.
With any luck our Aussie research teams will find success with their trials, giving sufferers hope for a more effective treatment. Everything we learn about this condition gets us closer to the cure, and we are fortunate to have such brilliant researchers working in this area.