A group of researchers from the University of Verona has shown that the genes that control the immune system are switched on before symptoms appear in MND mice. The study published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology reported shrinkage of upper motor neurones (running from the brain to the spinal cord) and the "switching on" of surrounding immune cells such as astrocytes and microglia.

Thalidomide had shown great promise in a mouse model of MND but results in humans have been disappointing. It was thought that Thalidomide may have reduced the levels of immune signalling molecules in the brain. However, the study did not seem to find any significant decrease in the immune signals or any effect on the disease progression. In addition, it caused unwanted side effects.

Researchers in Mexico have taken cells from the bone marrow of MND patients and injected them back in to their brains in an attempt to stimulate new neuronal growth. Their findings were published in the journal Cytotherapy on 3 February 2009. The treatment is “a well-tolerated procedure” reports Dr Martinez and co-workers.

To date there have not been many researchers tackling the question of whether there is a link between diet and MND. However, a team of researchers in Japan have attempted to do just that. Their work was published on 11 February 2009 in the journal Neuroepidemiology. "We investigated the relationship between dietary intake of vegetables, fruit, and antioxidants and the risk of MND in Japan" reports Dr Okamoto and co-workers.

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