What is motor neurone disease?

Motor neurone disease (MND) also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating untreatable disease that results in progressive muscle weakness leading to paralysis. It is invariably fatal, generally due to respiratory failure within a few years.

MND is caused by the degeneration and death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons are the nerves that are involved with muscles and movement. There are approximately 300 people living with MND in Scotland at any given time and there are no effective treatments.

There are many variants of MND, including forms with a childhood onset (including spinal muscular atrophy or SMA) and those with slow progression. The physicist Stephen Hawking has a very slowly progressing form of this disease. A small proportion of cases are inherited.

The major research centre for MND research in Edinburgh is the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research, which is closely linked to the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

Useful links

The MND Association (http://www.mndassociation.org/)

MND Scotland (http://www.mndscotland.org.uk/)

NHS Choices, motor neurone disease (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Motor-neurone-disease)

The Jennifer Trust for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (http://www.jtsma.org.uk/)