Thursday 11th May, Mhoriam Ahmed, a Neuroscientist came into Twyford to teach us about her research of motor neurone disease, more well known as ALS. In ALS, the nerve cells become damaged therefore cannot deliver signals to the muscle which leads to weakened muscle.
As you cannot work on nerve cells inside the body, Mhoriam carried out a punch biopsy on the skin, then provided certain conditions to manipulate them into stem cells. She then placed the stem cells in various conditions which differentiated them into nerve cells. The protein called TDP-43 was found to be contained within the nucleus, however when the cell undergoes stress this protein leaves the nucleus and travels into the cytoplasm where it clumps together around the nucleus. In a healthy cell, the cell would then transcribe the DNA to produce lots of chaperone proteins that will fix the damaged proteins. However in an unhealthy cell there are insufficient chaperone proteins so the cell dies. Mhoriam is developing a drug which prolongs the transcription of chaperone proteins which therefore reduces the effect of stress on cells.
This was very interesting to learn about as she taught us about the specific chemicals that affect out nerve cells and then proposed various ideas of how to combat this. Her findings were successful and she is now carrying out various experiments to test her findings under different environments.