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New 'game-changer' test spots motor neurone disease before symptoms appear

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A test that spots signs of motor neurone disease before symptoms appear has been hailed a “game changer” by scientists developing it.The tool, known as TDP-43 aptamer, is able to detect damaged cell proteins in brain tissue samples.

Researchers said these proteins are indicators, or biomarkers, of MND that can be spotted before cells begin to malfunction and symptoms start to appear.They said that detecting the condition at its earliest stages opened the door for more effective treatments.Dr Holly Spence, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “Our findings have implications for early diagnostics and intervention prior to symptom onset in MND.“With better ability to detect disease, we might be able to diagnose people with MND earlier, when therapeutic drugs might be much more effective.”MND affects around 5,000 people in the UK.

There’s no cure for the condition, but treatments can help reduce its impact on a person’s daily life.It is caused by a build-up of certain proteins in the brain that clump together, causing the cells to gradually stop working.

Symptoms include impaired movement, thinking and breathing, which worsens over time.The researchers said their test could pick up indicators of MND earlier and with more sensitivity than methods currently used.Dr Jenna Gregory, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “This tool ‘targets’ the disease protein and allows us to see where toxic clumps are building up in the body.“It can do this for much lower amounts of disease proteins, and with greater accuracy than ever before.

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