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Finding a cure for debilitating degenerative diseases, such as Motor Neurone Disease (MND), is moving ever closer thanks to world-class research conducted at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) which has the potential to transform millions of lives across the world.
SITraN – at the University of Sheffield – was officially unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in November 2010 with the vision to overcome the devastating effects of MND, which is an incurable disease, on patients and their families. Two years on SITraN has grown immensely and developed into a leading global facility which is at the forefront of research, expertise and pioneering new treatments for MND and related neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Alzheimer's Disease- bringing new hope to patients and families across the country.
The £18 million centre brings together state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment including a clinical database of over 1500 patients and the largest resource of human brain-bank material in the world. Professor Pamela Shaw, Head of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield and Director of SITraN said: "The vision behind the creation of SITraN was to establish a world class research institute where teams of clinicians and scientists could be brought together under one roof to focus their combined skills on solving the problem of MND and related neurodegenerative conditions.
"We aim to harness some of the exciting developments in neuroscience and translate these new approaches into benefits for our patients in the clinic. Many wonderful patrons, supporters, patients and family members got behind this vision and helped make it happen."
Professor Shaw added: "Outstanding benefits have already materialised. SITraN is acting as a magnet attracting top quality researchers from around the world to come to Sheffield, as well as research funding, philanthropic donations and pharmaceutical industry partners to support our work.
MND: the facts
"Several of our research programmes have already made a difference to life expectancy and quality of life for people afflicted by MND and more exciting and innovative programmes are in the pipeline. SITraN staff are immensely grateful to all of our supporters and to the MND sufferers who willingly give their time, energy and enthusiasm to help our research projects."
Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock from SITraN was the Thumb Print (Magazine of the Motor Neurone Disease Association) Autumn 2012 cover story describing the significance of a large investment over nine years by the MNDA into a National DNA Bank:
“Genetic technology is now very powerful and lets us analyse large numbers of DNA samples in a very short time.”
The MNDA National DNA bank aided researchers to identify the then elusive genetic mistake, within a gene called C9ORF72. This genetic mistake affects about 40% of people with a family history of Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Unlocking the answers - Building on this new and exciting genetic discovery, Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock will be using cutting-edge genetic techniques on DNA bank samples donated by people with the C9ORF72genetic mistake to find out more about how it can cause MND. In particular he will be attempting to use cell models to identify potential therapeutic targets – pathways which can be altered by drugs to correct the effects of the C9orf72 genetic mistake.
The University of Sheffield has raised £4,000 for the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), an institution devoted to research into neurological diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, thanks to the help of Elton John.
Sir Elton John kindly donated tickets for a recent concert, the proceeds of which will be put towards a fundraising initiative to buy cutting edge equipment, which will greatly expand the Institute’s capability of techniques for investigating neurodegenerative diseases at the level of DNA. This will help develop knowledge of the disease process and help to identify the best way to develop new therapies for these distressing disorders.
Professor Pamela Shaw, Director of SITraN, said: “The SITraN research team and I are very grateful to Sir Elton John and his colleagues for this very generous donation which will contribute towards a vital piece of research equipment. We know that having the best equipment here in Sheffield will be invaluable in progressing the understanding of the mechanisms of Motor Neurone Disease and Parkinson’s Disease and advancing the development of new therapies for these devastating conditions.”
UK education council CASE Europe praised philanthropy at the University of Sheffield which has raised more than £11 million in the last three years as part of the Government match funding initiative for higher education.
The University's Development and Alumni Relations office were set a challenge to raise over £8.25 million in three years, which would then be match funded up to £2.75 million by the Government. Based on data from Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE), during the past three years Sheffield has shown the most significant and sustained improvement in the top tier of the scheme.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters, the hard work of staff, and over 5,000 new charitable donations, they exceeded their target, triggering the match funding which was instrumental in the development of the state-of-the-art Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). The award was presented at an evening reception in London on 3 May 2012 to University Vice-Chancellor Professor Keith Burnett, Director of the world-class SITraN facility Professor Pam Shaw, and Director of Development and Alumni Relations Miles Stevenson, by Professor Eric Thomas, Chair of the Board of CASE Europe, and the Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.
Once again a big thank-you to all our supporters and donors who continue to support the vital work being undertaken in SITraN.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield are taking part in the world's biggest ever in-depth study tracking people with Parkinson's in order to unlock further secrets about the neurological disorder to boost the chances of finding a cure.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the key centres in the UK taking part in the £1.6 million research funded by Parkinson's UK. Dr Oliver Bandmann, Consultant Neurologist and Reader in Neurology at the University of Sheffield, is leading the research locally. Based at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), his research team focuses on the development of new model systems for Parkinson's and their use for drug screens in an academic setting.
Dr Bandmann said: "Finding a cure for Parkinson's is what every researcher in the field dreams about. Tracking Parkinson's is a major new research project and we are very excited to be involved right at the beginning. This study really offers hope for the future for people with Parkinson's and we need eligible people in Sheffield to volunteer to help us make our vision of a cure a reality."
Leading research and support charity Parkinson's UK have chosen the opening day of Parkinson's Awareness Week (16 April-22 April 2012) to put out an urgent call for 3,000 volunteers to take part in the ground-breaking Tracking Parkinson's clinical study. The charity is appealing for both people recently diagnosed with Parkinson's (within the last three years) and those who were under the age of 50 at diagnosis – along with their siblings - to take part in the study.
The primary aim of the research is to identify elusive biomarkers for Parkinson's, such as signpost indicators in the blood, that could help develop simple tests, like blood tests, for use as diagnostic tools. Despite the best efforts of researchers worldwide no biomarkers have yet been identified for Parkinson's. Early diagnosis is crucial if doctors are to be able to prescribe the right drugs for people with Parkinson's to control – and, one day hopefully, even cure - their condition. The responses of people with Parkinson's to treatments for distressing symptoms like tremors, movement problems, anxiety, memory lapses and digestion problems will be closely monitored for up to five years.