Tiny fish could be key to develop treatment against MND

A Griffith University researcher will dive beneath the surface to better understand the role of genes recently associated with a neurological condition called Motor Neuron Disease (or Amyotrophy Lateral Sclerosis).

Dr Jean Giacomotto.Dr Jean Giacomotto, a research leader and NHMRC Research Fellow from Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery and the Centre for Cellular Phenomics, has been awarded a $299,791 FightMND Impact Grant to further his research into the surprising role that a species of fish could potentially play in modelling this debilitating disease. 

The zebrafish, a small freshwater fish, is a powerful model for both genetics and for its versatility for drug discovery.

Dr Giacomotto and colleagues will tweak zebrafish genetics to better understand the individual pathogenic role of MND risk-genes and develop zebrafish animal MND-models optimised for drug discovery and pre-clinical studies.

“Our project will help to better understand the pathogenic contributions of genes associated with MND and has the potential to establish innovative research models for drug discovery and pre-clinical studies,” he said.

“We are tremendously honoured to receive the support of FightMND. Thanks to them and their donors, our innovative work can reach a new stage and will contribute to making a world without MND.”

Founded in 2014, FightMND was established with the purpose of finding effective treatments and ultimately a cure for MND.

Every day two Australians are diagnosed with MND.

MND is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable us to move, speak, swallow and breathe fail to work normally and eventually die.

With no nerves to activate them the muscles gradually weaken and waste.

There is currently no truly effective treatment and no known cure.

With the new research support from FightMND, Dr Giacomotto and his team aim to develop two innovative genetic systems that will serve a two-fold strategy. 

“First, our approach and technology will ease the study and confirmation of the different MND-genes pathogenicity,” he said.

“And second, and most importantly, it has the strong potential to lead to the generation of stable MND zebrafish models presenting early phenotypes – which are MND hallmarks – that could be used for drug screening and drug discovery.

“This combined with the outstanding drug discovery expertise of Distinguished Professor Vicky Avery, thanks to FightMND, our team will build a very strong foundation toward the discovery of innovative therapeutics for patients.

“All in all, this research has tremendous potential to both better understand MND and provide new powerful tools for looking to drug therapies.”