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Spotlight on research: Creating a cell model to find biomarkers for MND

Biomarkers can be used to track disease progression in people living with MND and measure the effectiveness of treatments in clinical trials. Currently, progression of MND is monitored using the ALS Functional Rating Scale – Revised (ALSFRS) questionnaire. Dr Mary-Louise Rogers and
her team have identified a biomarker found in urine, which is easy and painless to collect and provides an objective measure of MND progression.

Science in brief
p75 ECD is a region of a protein present in urine after nerve injury. Dr Mary-Louise Rogers and her team conducted groundbreaking research that showed for the first time, a biological fluid-based biomarker known as p75ECD increases in concentration as disease progresses in MND patients sampled regularly over a two-year period. The findings provide a quantifiable measure of the severity of motor neurone degeneration in MND and predicted the future course of disease. They also suggest that analysing levels of the protein p75ECD in urine samples from people with MND may determine whether therapies are having any effect.
 
The study was published in Neurology in March 2017. It was a collaboration between Drs Mary- Louise Rogers and Stephanie Shepheard from Flinders University and Professor Michael Benatar from the University of Miami, as well as Dr David Schultz from the Flinders Medical Centre and Repatriation General Hospital.
 
Impact
This is an important finding for people living with MND because it paves the way for determining if new drugs used in future clinical trials are working or not. The finding provides a quantifiable measure of the severity of motor neurone degeneration in MND, and offers a unique opportunity to use p75ECD as a biomarker of drug effect in MND trials of treatments. p75ECD has the potential to transform the conduct of clinical trials, making it easier to decide which experimental therapies are worthy of further investigation.
 
Next steps
Dr Rogers and her team are now further investigating the role of p75 ECD in MND, and also planning to incorporate urinary p75ECD in upcoming clinical trials of treatments for MND as a biomarker of disease progression.





Article sourced from MND Research Institure of Australia report '$25Million, 25 Milestones: Changing the future of MND'. 

Photo:
Vyoma Modi, Michell Cardosa and
Dr Mary-Louise Rogers, Flinders University
Credit: Flinders University

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