Inspirational teenager gives support to award-winning MND research

Friday 16 October 2015


Following the success of her recent fun run, in honour of popular maths teacher Donald Grewar who had been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), fourteen-year old Madras College pupil Brynja Duthie has pledged to make the run an annual event in order to fund University of St Andrews research to find a cure for the devastating disease.

The University has offered the use of its sports fields to host an annual event, and to give the Cupar teenager any support it can.

MND is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that attacks motor neurons, specialised nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing the loss of signals from the brain to muscles and eventually leading to paralysis.

Approximately 5000 people in the UK live with MND at any one time, with approximately five people dying of the disease every day. There is currently no cure for MND and treatment options are limited.

Dr Gareth Miles is leading work at the University of St Andrews to develop new treatments and ultimately find a cure for the disease. Earlier this year he was part of the team that made the latest significant breakthrough: discovering new ways of studying what happens to motor neurons affected by Motor Neuron Disease (MND) by using stem cells derived from patient skin samples.

Brynja said: “I am still completely shocked but incredibly happy by how much money we raised following Mr G’s Run. It’s just amazing. It really wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of Stephen Stewart and Ian Guant as well as the local community. I am so grateful that this will now become an annual event supported by the University and that next year the money we raise will go to support Mr Grewar and research in MND conducted by award winning scientist Dr Gareth Miles at the University of St Andrews. I hope also that our fundraising continues to raise awareness and that ultimately a cure can be found.

“I am also very excited to have met Dr Miles, to find out about his research and congratulate him on his recent award. I know he really helped Mr Grewar when he was first diagnosed.”

Welcoming the news Dr Miles said: “Brynja is an impressive and talented young woman who is clearly very passionate about helping others. We are extremely grateful for her confidence in our research program and for all that she is doing to raise awareness of this devastating condition.”

Brynja’s decision to fundraise for the continuation of this work comes just as Dr Miles has been announced as winner of the Paulo Gontijo Institute’s International Medicine Award for his work towards a cure for the most common form of MND: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Dr Miles continued: “My lab investigates how networks of neurons in the spinal cord control movements and how dysfunction within these networks leads to motor disorders such as ALS. By investigating both the basic biology of motor control and the changes in motor networks that occur due to illness, we hope to reveal new targets that will lead to new treatments for MND.

“I am very honoured to receive this award. It is extremely gratifying for me, my lab members and my collaborators to have the quality and the potential impact of our work recognized.”

The International Medicine PG Award is recognised by the international scientific community, and its partners the International Alliance of ALS, Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and the European Community for Research for the Cure of ALS (ENCALS). Dr Miles will receive $20,000 and a gold medal during the 25th International Symposium on ALS/MND to be held in Orlando (USA) in December.

Notes to news editors

Dr Miles is a senior lecturer at the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, Co-Director of the Institute of Behavioral and Neural Sciences at the University of St Andrews, and partner member of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research at the University of Edinburgh.

The Paulo Gontijo Institute (IPG) encourages scientific research associated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) through the International Paulo Gontijo Award (PG Award) in Medicine.

The prize has been awarded annually since 2011, with international support of the MND Association, International Alliance of MND / ALS associations and ENCALS – European Community studying the cure of ALS.

PHOTO: Brynja Duthie (left) and Donald Grewar (centre) visited Dr Gareth Miles (right) for a tour of his laboratory.

Category Research

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