A delegation from SITraN led by Director Professor Dame Pam Shaw presented their latest research on motor neuron disease (MND) at the 26th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Orlando, USA, from 11th to 13th December 2015. The symposium is the premier event in the MND research calendar for discussion on the latest advances in research and clinical management. With over 800 delegates from the MND research community worldwide, it is the largest medical and scientific conference specific to MND, known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the US. The aim of the symposium is to foster strong collaboration between leading researchers around the world, and to share new understanding of the disease as rapidly as possible. SITraN had a strong representation at the event with four podium presentations and three poster presentations.
Consultant Neurologist and Reader in Neurology Dr Chris McDermott gave two podium presentations in the session on respiratory support. He talked about the development of guidance for professionals in the UK for the withdrawal of assisted ventilation at the request of a patient with MND and later in the session presented the results from the UK multi-centre trial DiPALS, investigating the benefits of a diaphragm pacing device to support breathing in people affected by MND. In the session on biomarkers, Consultant Neurologist and Senior Clinical Lecturer Dr Thomas Jenkins showed his preliminary data on the potential of whole-body muscle magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a biomarker in MND. Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock presented his latest studies on the mechanisms that lead to MND in cases linked to the C9orf72 gene, the most common known genetic cause of MND.
At the poster sessions Dr Tennore Ramesh presented his work on drug screening for ALS in zebrafish. For two SITraN PhD students this was the first visit to an international conference: Natalie Rounding and Jodie Stephenson presented research posters on their projects, characterising a new zebrafish and mouse model for MND, and both were pleased about the interest and feedback they received for their research.
Prof Dame Pam Shaw said: “The International Symposium on ALS/MND is the premier event to hear about the latest research and progress made in MND research and to discuss our work with colleagues and collaborators from all over the world. We are very proud to have had such a great representation of SITraN with six of our researchers and PhD students presenting their work to the MND research community.”
The event was also a great opportunity for a successful meeting of the members of the Project MinE consortium, including SITraN Director Prof Dame Pam Shaw. The worldwide collaboration in MND genetics research aims to find the causes for MND by sequencing the genomes of 15,000 people with MND and comparing them with the genomes of 7,500 healthy individuals. The project has so far collected more than 6,000 genome profiles, 27% of the total target. In the consortium meeting, researchers from more than 15 countries were present to discuss the progress of Project MinE.
The event is organised by the UK’s main charity for MND, the MND Association, in cooperation with the International Alliance for ALS Associations; this year’s event was hosted by the US ALS Association. The complete programme of the ALS/MND symposium is available online from the MND Association website. Watch out for mndresearch blogs on the event by Jodie Stephenson and Natalie Rounding on https://mndresearch.wordpress.com/ .
The next symposium will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 7-9 December 2016.