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Motor neurone DNA used in pesticide study

7th February 2006

Studies using the DNA of sufferers of motor neurone disease have indicated a potential link with exposure to certain pesticides.

Research into environmental factors associated with the disease, using the DNA of 900 sufferers, showed that a significant number of patients had worked with or near the substances for a prolonged length of time, reports ABC News online.

"For example, for more than once a week for six months you need to be exposed to the herbicides, so it's people working in the industry, farmers, people on the land who are slightly more at risk," explained professor Roger Pamphlett.

The study also indicated the presence of a gene, making the sufferers more susceptible to the disease, a development which could lead to future treatments focussing on how to "turn off the gene".

"If we know the gene involved in susceptibility there are now real chances of being able to change that gene in humans to make people less susceptible to the agent and in fact to reverse the disease," the professor added.

Presented at the Australian Neuroscience Society annual meeting in Sydney, the study emphasises the benefits of working with the DNA of sufferers and follows plans by researchers to increase the number of DNA samples contained in the bank.