Dr Andrew Tosolini and his personal connection to MND
22 February 2023
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22 February 2023
The MND Association has played a pivotal role in the progress made in MND research, and there has been an exponential rise in scientific knowledge about the disease in the last ten years. As of 30 September 2022, with several decades of experience in identifying and funding the most promising MND research, our research grants portfolio is now approximately £16.8 million.
Meet one of their talented MND Association-funded researchers from University College London, Dr Andrew Tosolini.
His research is looking to find answers to a crucial question-what might cause someone to develop MND.
The team over at the MND Association recently caught up with Andrew to find out more about his personal connection to MND, his career, and his hopes for the future.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Andrew obtained his Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He then moved to London more than seven years ago with his wife to take up his position at University College London. He became passionate about MND research while helping to care for his father, who lived with the disease for seven years, and who sadly died on the evening of Andrew’s wedding surrounded by family and friends.
Andrew’swork looks to provide another crucial piece to the puzzle of what goes wrong with motor neurones in MND, and in particular in the axon, which is the long extension of a motor neuron that acts as a highway connecting the spinal cord with the muscle. His current project focuses on axonal transport–which is the movement of substances along the axon that is essential to maintain the function and health of motor neurons.
In MND, Andrew and others have found that this important transport system goes wrong in the affected motor neurons. Maintaining efficient and effective axonal transport is particularly important in motor neurons where the axon can be up to one metre in length. You can think of this in terms of transporting goods to and from major cities, and the problems that may arise when this transport breaks down. The consequences of impaired axonal transport is best understood with the increasing prevalence of rail strikes in recent times across the UK!
How will this help people with MND in the future?
As Andrew’s work focuses on the basic biology of MND, it will help us to understand more about what causes the disease. Without this knowledge, we cannot develop an effective treatment. By understanding how defects in motor neurone signaling from the muscle influence the health of motor neurones, Andrew can then try to develop ways to restore the signaling with the overall aim of preserving the communication between the motor neurons and muscle. Indeed, preserving the connection between motor neurons and skeletal muscle is paramount to continue moving our bodies, and to maintain some degree of normal function and movement.
Hope for the future
When asked how hopeful he was about finding a new treatment, or even a cure, for MND, Andrew said: “All researchers focusing on MND are incredibly hopeful of finding a new and effective treatment for MND. It is our job to understand the biology of MND, and the pathological mechanisms that change throughout the course of the disease. As a scientific community, we work collaboratively to find a way forward. I know first-hand how desperate patients and their families are to find a cure and feel very honored that I can play a role in this. This will never be lost on me and I, along with many others in the MND research community, work tirelessly in the pursuit of developing effective treatments.”