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Identification of environmental risk factors for sporadic motor neurone disease in Australia

Project Member(s): Rodgers, K.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia (Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia - Motor Neurone Disease Research Grants)

Start year: 2016

Summary: Over 2,000 Australians are currently living with MND. It is the cause of death of 1 in 180 Australians, with a mean survival of less than 4 years. 90% of MND is sporadic with no known cause or effective therapy. A number of neurotoxins present in our environment have been implicated as causes of sporadic MND (sMND), these include heavy metals, pesticides, fertilisers and exposure to toxic blue-green algal blooms. It is likely that the factors responsible for causing MND persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in our ecosystem. Long-term exposure to these neurotoxins can give rise to clusters or ‘hot-spots’ of sMND. In this project we will map MND patients in NSW and identify geographical clusters of MND to provide information on the possible environmental toxins involved. We will analyse blood and hair samples from sMND patients for the presence of a wide range of toxins implicated in neurological disorders and monitor the environment for the presence of these neurotoxins. Identifying factors that cause sMND will help us understand more about the disease and could lead to therapies to slow and stop the disease process. In addition, preventing or limiting exposure of the Australian population to these environmental factors will result in a gradual decline in the incidence of sMND and protect future generations of Australians.

FOR Codes: Clinical Sciences, Environment not elsewhere classified, Neurosciences