Researcher out to beat cruel illness

The fight against motor neurone disease has always been a personal one for University of Wollongong researcher Dr Justin Yerbury, who will take part in a fund-raising walk tomorrow.

Dr Yerbury, from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, lost his mother Pauline, sister Sarah, and other relatives to the disease and has dedicated his career to looking for answers.

His team, which works with researchers in Melbourne and Canada, recently made a key discovery that could one day help searstop the spread of the incurable neuromuscular condition throughout the body.

"The disease is very progressive and rapid, but not a lot of work has been done to look at how it moves from one brain region to another," Dr Yerbury said.

"Through our research, we now have an idea how this could happen, as we have found that there is a particular protein, called SOD1, that can transfer from one cell to another. If we can block it from spreading to the next cells, then maybe we can stop its progression."

Dr Yerbury and his team will take time away from the lab to participate in tomorrow's Walk to d'Feet Motor Neurone Disease.

All proceeds from the five-kilometre walk, which will start at 10am at Bulli Reserve, will go to MND NSW, which supports people living with motor neurone disease and research.

"At the moment, the prognosis if you are diagnosed with MND is that you can expect that within three years you will have passed away," Dr Yerbury said.

"Along the way, you will have lost all your movement, dignity and privacy. Any kind of information we can uncover that moves us closer towards a treatment, or a cure, is very important. It's also important for us, as a research team, to get out of the lab and talk to people with MND and see the effects of the disease first-hand."

Registrations for the Illawarra walk can be made on the day. For details visit mndnsw.asn.au.

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