Our mission is to empower and enable patient & public involvement in motor neuron disorders research

News Archive: 2017

December 2017

Presentation – The role of C9orf72 cellular recycling

Dr Christopher Webster gave an informative presentation to the SMND RAG on groundbreaking research that could pave the way to for potential future drug development.  Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered a novel function of the C9orf72 protein which is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – giving a new insight into the most common genetic cause of the degenerative diseases.

Please click on the following link for a brief review of the project – brief review

The pioneering study has been published in the EMBO Journal, please click on the following link to view the full publication – full publication


November 2017

myTube website wins the Nutrition Resource of the Year award by Complete Nutrition Magazine

Pioneering patient-led information website myTube wins the Nutrition Resource of the Year award by Complete Nutrition Magazine 2017. Patients and carers shared their insights into difficult care decisions they have faced in living with Motor Neuron Disease and made a pragmatic, honest and personal video resource website to inform others thinking about tube feeding in case of compromised eating and swallowing. The patients and carers took the research done at SITraN by Prof Chris McDermott’s team and made it real and relevant to everyday life for those affected by MND. For more information please click here

May 2017

Become a patient representative

Would you like to be involved in the decisions made about MND research studies?  Do you think you could act as a delegate for people with MND?  Become a volunteering patient representative for the UK Motor Neurone Disease Clinical Studies Group (UK MND CSG).

The UK MND CSG are looking to appoint a patient representative to join their group that is responsible for developing and monitoring portfolio of MND research studies in the UK.

The representative would have the chance to provide their perspective on new and upcoming clinical studies and to offer advice to other patients when requested.  You would be required to take part in monthly teleconferences (approximately 1 hour long) and to read relevant meeting papers before these meetings (provided via email communication).

If you think you would be a good patient representative, please read the Terms of Reference (pages 11-12) to familiarise yourself fully with the role and the related duties.  If you wish to apply, please send your CV and a supporting letter explaining why you are interested in joining the group to h.hollinger@sheffield.ac.uk by 21 May 2017.

For any further questions about this position, please contact Hannah Hollinger.

Associate Member – Why I joined the SMND RAG

In 2012 I was contacted by the Alumni office of Sheffield University as  I was a student there from 1966 to 1969. Whilst speaking to the student representative of the Alumni office, I mentioned that, whilst studying at Sheffield,  I met my  late husband who was also a student at Sheffield.  He died of Motor Neurone Disease in 2011.  The student arranged for me to visit the university taking in an open day at SITraN.  I was extremely  interested to visit SITraN and very impressed by the excellent research being carried out.

Whilst at the open day, I became an associate member of the group.  I have been very interested  in developments in research and feel that, if required, I am able to comment on the needs and experiences of patient and carer.  I am also happy to proof read any documents.

I think my experience  is as expected and  I do hope to be able to visit SITraN again.

I am very pleased that SITraN  exists.  MND  is a terrible disease.

Voting open for the myTube website

The myTube website has been shortlisted in the nutrition resource of the year category of the Complete Nutrition (CN) awards. It would be good publicity for the website if it were to win it, so it would be great if you could give it your vote. You can cast your vote at:


The website was designed by patients living with MND and their carers, to support the decision to have a feeding tube placed. If you want to take another look at the website please go to http://mytube.mymnd.org.uk/

New urine-based biomarker opens a gate to improved tracking of MND

For further information please click here.

April 2017

ALS Reversals – What are they?

Members of the group received an overview of ALS reversals at a recent meeting, further details can be seen below:

ALS Reversals


Richard Bedlack

  Richard Bedlack

Rick Bedlack, a neurologist at Duke University in Durham North Carolina, first encountered an ALS reversal in 2011, while leading an ALSUntangled review of Dean Kraft, an energy healer. On Kraft’s website was a video about a lady, who was reported to have been diagnosed with ALS and progressed to where she had lost nearly all movement and was near death. After two years of Kraft’s treatments, she was reported to have recovered most or all her motor function to where she could walk and use her arms normally. Rick was sceptical but nevertheless investigated. Her medical records suggested that her ALS diagnosis was correct and since then, Rick has found 22 additional ALS reversals and has started to focus further research into the area.

There is a precedent for his work: a study of people who are infected with the HIV virus but never get sick showed that many of them have the same genetic abnormality, which causes their resistance and helped researchers create a new drug that works for everyone with HIV. Rick hypothesised that there were 3 possible explanations for ALS reversals:

  1. They did not have ALS in the first place, but rather an ALS-mimic
  2. A genetic factor that made them “resistant” to the disease (like the resistant HIV patients)
  3. Positive effects from a new treatment these people started or from removing some toxic environmental trigger.

Rick has designed two new programs called Replication of ALS Reversals (ROAR) and Study of ALS Reversals (StAR) to help work through these hypotheses and received start-up funding for these from the Larry Vance Hughes ALS Foundation.

In the ROAR program, he is testing the exact same treatments that people with reversals tried in a larger number of patients. In the StAR program, he will be looking for ALS mimics in people with reversals, and will be comparing their genes to people whose ALS does not reverse.

So far Rick has found that ALS plateaus in disease progression and small brief reversals are not uncommon. On the other hand, large reversals lasting a long time are rare; using a US database of ALS patients, Rick found that less than 1% of 1000 ALS patients had an ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R) improvement of at least four points lasting at least a year. Identifying ALS reversal in patients is key for enrolling more patients into Rick studies which are of vital importance to trying to identify a common ALS resistance factor.

People can find out more at www.alsreversals.org

myTube – a new educational website about feeding tubes in MND

myTube workshop-1 (2)

A new website is now been launched, aimed at supporting people who are thinking about getting a feeding tube fitted and people who would like advice about using one. Cathy Soreny (filmmaker and nurse) talks to us about a new project from SITraN that involved members of the SMND RAG.

Motor Neurone Disease can affect eating in various ways – such as affecting swallowing and chewing, or it becoming difficult to use cutlery. People can start to choke, get chest infections and lose weight. A feeding tube may be suggested during a visit to clinic. Feeding tubes – often also called PEG, PIG or RIG tubes – enable liquid food to be passed directly into the stomach. Quite understandably people often feel a little alarmed and confused when a feeding tube is suggested. What will it look like? How will it feel? How will we cope with using it? There can be many questions, and sometimes people delay having a tube due to their concerns.

myTube screen shot

Dr Chris McDermott’s research team at SITraN in Sheffield has been very aware about these worries. They conducted a research study called ProGas to find out more about the pros and cons of feeding tubes in MND. One element of this study was interviewing people about how they felt about feeding tubes – first when they were deciding whether to have a tube or not, and then after they had had it fitted. Many useful ideas and themes came to light, and the SITraN team wanted to make sure that this information could be turned into easy to access advice for anyone thinking about a feeding tube.

Chris approached me and my team to tackle this, as we had made the myNIV website a couple of years ago, where people could learn more about using non-invasive ventilation machines. For myTube we again  worked with a group of people who were living with MND and their carers, so their ideas and voice would be at the heart of everything we did. The whole project was a collaboration between these people, filmmakers, web designers and clinicians. myTube has been funded equally by the MNDA (the local South Yorkshire branch and central office) and Sheffield-based Westfield Health Charitable Trust.

Jason-this-is-my-tube (2)From February until July this year we held four half day workshops. We asked the patient and carer group for their detailed thoughts and reflection on the research findings, and how these issues affect them in their daily lives. One key idea really came out of our group discussions – everyone felt they never had the chance to meet someone with a tube before they had their own fitted. So they wanted the website to be a way to ‘meet’ people, hear about their experiences and see their feeding tubes in use.

The website developed into a collection of short films, featuring the myTube team in their own homes, talking about how they made their decision, how they feed with their tubes and useful troubleshooting tips. The films are supported by brief sections of text and a list of carefully selected resources from trusted organisations, such as the MNDA’s range of fact sheets.

We are extremely proud of how this project has come together over the past year and much credit is due to the wonderful group of patients and carers who contributed so much – ideas, insight, honesty, creativity and humour! We would like to thank them all for making myTube a success – Marlene and Trevor Leigh, Terry and Rose Hobbs, Jason & Liz Liversidge, Michael Hickman, Dave Booker and Brian Jackson.

You can take a look at myTube at www.mytube.mymnd.org.uk

March 2017

SMND RAG Chairperson

Michael HickmanWe are delighted to announce the appointment of Michael Hickman as the new chair for the group.

Michael has a long history with the SMND RAG having served as a member since 2009 and will be an asset to the group moving forward.

Social Media

The SMND RAG now have a presence on Facebook.  For more information please click here


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