Do we understand MND?

The causes of motor neuron disease remain unknown. Some scientists think a slow-acting virus may be involved while others think that toxins may be to blame. In 10% of cases, the cause has been linked to an altered gene inherited from an affected parent – familial motor neuron disease. There is no cure for the condition at present. Researchers are investigating ways of replacing the lost motor neurons.

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A motor neuron in the spinal cord.

What happened on Guam?

In the 1940s and 1950s, the incidence of motor neuron disease on the western Pacific island of Guam was much higher than elsewhere in the world. The disease did not seem to be inherited or contagious – no virus could be found. A possible explanation was the islander's habit of using cycad seeds to make flour. These are poisonous if not washed properly.

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Seeds from the false sago palm have been linked to motor neurone disease on the Pacific island of Guam.


Principal Funder:

Wellcome trust

Major Sponsors:

GlaxoSmithKline life technologies