Researchers get a little wet behind the ears

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UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute director Professor Perry Bartlett is drenched with a bucket of iced water to raise awareness about motor neuron disease research.

In good weather for ducks, 20 researchers at The University of Queensland took the plunge and braved the Ice Bucket Challenge in the name of raising funds to fight motor neuron disease (MND).

Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) scientists, who are looking into ways to treat MND, braved a cold and wet Brisbane afternoon to raise money and awareness of efforts to understand the disease in Australia.

MND, also known as amyotropic lateral sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the name given to a group of related brain disorders that result from the steady loss of nerve cells (motor neurons) that control muscle movement and function.

Affecting almost 2000 Australians, the average life expectancy of a person diagnosed with MND is just two to three years as their ability to walk, speak, swallow and even breathe steadily deteriorates.

QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett, speaking after being drenched with a bucket of iced water, said the importance of MND research to combat a disease that traps a victim in their own body was essential.

“Although it’s cold being doused with icy water, it’s very mild in comparison to motor neuron disease,” Professor Bartlett said after taking the challenge.

Professor Bartlett then challenged former Brisbane Lord Mayor, Queensland Great and Chair of QBI’s Advisory Board, Dr Sallyanne Atkinson and all the heads of large neuroscience centres and institutes that work on MND in Australia, to take the Ice Bucket Challenge.

“Furthermore, I think the directors of these institutes should agree to be dowsed annually until a real finding or a cure to this disease occurs,” he said.

MND research at QBI is centred on discovering the genes associated with the disease, with the objective of blocking the progress once key genes are identified as therapeutic targets.

The QBI researchers were challenged by Jeff Maclean, who witnessed the devastating impact of MND firsthand when he lost his father, Ross, to the disease in 2005.

Before Ross passed away he established the Ross Maclean Senior Research Fellowship to investigate MND, despite knowing he would never personally see the benefits, and his family has since passionately advocated his vision.

Donations to the Ross Maclean Senior Research Fellowship to fight motor neuron disease can be made by visiting www.qbi.uq.edu.au/donate-to-qbi.

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