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Aussie researchers discover cause of motor neurone disease
By medical reporter Sophie Scott
Posted Fri Feb 29, 2008 7:00am AEDT Updated Fri Feb 29, 2008 9:19am AEDT
Audio: Scientists find motor neurone disease gene (AM)
Australian scientists have discovered the cause of motor neurone disease.
Scientists at Sydney's ANZAC Research Institute have been studying patients with the disease for the last 10 years.
They have found that patients with the debilitating illness have an abnormal protein that causes the fatal illness.
Lead scientist Professor Garth Nicholson says the findings open the way for new treatments.
"The proof of it is that we found patients who have this abnormality with the disease in families and people who didn't get the disease didn't have this abnormality," he said.
Professor Nicholson says the gene causes a poison that destroys motor neurones.
"Many people have thought for many years that motor neurone disease might be a poison of some sort, in the environment," he said.
"But here we have been able to show that it seems to be a poison in the body itself - something is going wrong and leads to the death of the neurones."
The findings have been published in the journal Science.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally incorrectly stated the cause of motor neurone disease was a gene. It is in fact a protein