Investigating the impact of a naturally occurring biomolecule known as miR-340 on other proteins known to have a role in MND.

A photo of Hannah Bailey

PhD Student: Hannah Bailey

Principal Investigator: Prof Rob Layfield

Lead Institution: University of Nottingham

MND Association Funding: £93,570*

Funding dates: October 2022 - September 2025

* The Stand Against MND Studentship funded in collaboration with the MND Association

About the project

Astrocytes are cells within the nervous system that serve to ‘protect’ neurones and keep them healthy. In MND, this protection can be reduced due to the malfunction of a protein called Nrf2. In some cases of MND, malfunction of another critical protein called TBK1 can exaggerate this effect, ultimately leading to motor neurone death. miR-340 is a naturally occurring biomolecule which has the potential to control levels of both these proteins in human cells. The aim of this project is to establish highly-sensitive analytical methods to allow measurement of levels of Nrf2, TBK1 and more than 100 other MND-associated proteins in different biological samples. The project will then compare protein levels between human astrocytes and motor neurones and their changes when miR-340 are added to cells. These findings will underpin experiments that explore the therapeutic potential of blocking miR-340 in human astrocytes which are predicted to increase levels of Nrf2 and TBK1 proteins, making astrocytes more protective and increasing motor neurone survival.

What could this mean for MND research?

This project is investigating if blocking a naturally occurring biomolecule will help to protect motor neurones. If this is the case then blocking this molecule could become a target for new therapeutic drugs to help treat MND.

Project Code: 905-792 

Animal research