Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, UK, have discovered a way in which neurons can be repaired, so as to stop muscle wastage in motor neurone disease (MND).
The team first grew neurons, fundamental units of the brain and nervous system, from stem cells donated by patients with a mutation in the C9orf72 gene - the gene is associated with MND thanks to research using mice.
Researchers found that the axons, the part of the neuron which communicates with muscle cells, were shorter than normal and that mitochondria, which power the cells, were also impaired.
Then by using a drug to boost the mitochondria the team restored the energy levels to those seen in healthy neurons.
"Our data provides hope that by restoring the cell's energy source we can protect the axons and their connection to muscle from degeneration”, said Dr Arpan Metha (pictured), lead author on the study.