INVESTIGATION: MND patient Barry Lucas being examined by Macquarie University’s Professor Dominic Rowe in Griffith last year.A scientistinvestigating the link between blue-green algae and motor neurone disease (MND) in the Griffith area said a lack of government funding was making it difficult to finda cure for the debilitating illness.
According toProfessor Gilles Guillemin, co-director of the MND and neurodegenerative diseases research centre atMacquarie University, the rate of MND in the Riverina is 10 times higher than the national average.
Teams from Macquarie University have been travelling to the Riverina over the past few years collecting water and fish samples from places like Lake Wyangan.
Prof Guillemin went on to sayMND was “absolutely” adisease that could be treated or cured if enough money was provided to fund research.
”Funding has declined dramatically,” Prof Guillemin said.“I have seen too many good scientists leaving medical research and go for stable teaching positions or move to private companies.
“Master and PhD students are deserting medical research, and they are wise to do so.Keeping our current mid-carrier scientists (usually the most productive in the lab) is becoming a serious issue.
“To give you an example, I have been working on MND for 10 years, published several scientific manuscripts, but never got a National Health and Medical Research Council grant for this work. We’re always supported by philanthropy.”
He said they were about to initiate the first clinical trial, if they could find the one million dollars required to fund it.
“One of the biggest issues (in securing funding) is that MND iswronglyconsidered a rare disease,” Prof Guillemin said.“In 1986, one death in 500 was caused by MND, it is now one in 180. In Australia,every day at least two people die of it and another two or more are diagnosed with MND.Such an increase (2.7 times in the last twodecades) has to be environmental, it cannot be genetic.So, low interest, low funding…”
Local-bornAFL legend Neale Daniher recently spoke toFairfaxabout his battle with MND.
“Every day you open the newspaper,there is another therapy and another treatment,” Mr Daniher said.
“The problem is it is locally underfunded.
“We’re trying to raise money to fund medical research and find a cure.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult if there is no money.”
Motor neurone disease affects the nerves that enable the body tomove, speak and breathe, causing them toslowly die.
It is a terminal illness and patients are only expected to survive between two and four years after diagnosis.
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