The consultant neurologist who treated RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray has described motor neurone disease (MND) and other neuro-degenerative diseases as the “last frontier in medicine”.
Prof Orla Hardiman said understanding MND was key to understanding more common neurodegenerative conditions, most notably Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
MND is incurable and irreversible. It affects one person in 300 in Ireland. It has proved to be stubbornly resistant to any treatments, as have other neurodegenerative diseases that have a huge societal cost.
At his funeral last week, Murray’s daughter Kate said her father’s MND “broke our hearts” and the illness felt like a “huge injustice”.
Before he died, the popular RTÉ broadcaster had participated in an unsuccessful drugs trial at Beaumont. Dexpramipexole showed promising results in animals, but did not translate to humans.
On the day Murray died last week, Prof Hardiman’s MND research group at Trinity College Dublin secured a €200,000 grant from the EU Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research to look into improving care for those with the disease.
The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Research Foundation has aspirations to be one of Europe’s leading research institutes into the disease. The EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 has set a goal to understand the causes of the major neurodegenerative diseases within six years with a view to finding more effective treatments.
Murray raised awareness with the documentary MND – The Inside Track which attracted 600,000 viewers when it was broadcast last year and again last weekend.
“What he did for motor neurone disease was very important,” Prof Hardiman said. “For everybody within MND, it is a tragic disease and Colm’s tragedy was the same as others, but the fact that he was so well loved by people made a big difference.”