Racing to a treatment for Motor Neurone Disease



When Ross Maclean was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2000 even his specialists couldn’t tell him much about the disease.

Mr Maclean, a dedicated Brisbane businessman who worked until the day he died, was determined to make a difference to those who came after him through supporting research at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

South-East Queenslanders can continue this legacy and help raise vital funds and awareness for MND at the annual Ross Maclean Fellowship Race Day.

This magnificent day out has something for everyone including horse racing, seafood buffet lunch, premium drinks package, live auction, raffles, live music and fashions on the field.

The path to finding a cure for MND

Jeff Maclean, Ross’s son, who has organised the race day for over 10 years, said the lack of information from doctors upon his father’s diagnosis caused the family to seek answers elsewhere, visiting Professor Perry Bartlett at QBI.

“After that visit, Dad funded a piece of equipment for Perry’s research,” Jeff said. “Dad knew it wouldn’t help him but he wanted to improve the outlook for people with MND in the future.

“MND is the complete opposite of dementia–you have a perfect mind but you lose operation of your body, and in the end, you virtually can’t move a thing.

“I think that’s why people get so involved when they see someone go through MND; watching someone gradually lose movement really drives home that it’s a fatal disease and there’s nothing that can be done.

“I think it’s wonderful the way so many people dig deep–our friends, family and business contacts were instrumental in helping to fund a research fellowship at QBI, which Perry named after Dad.”

Responding to body's failure to fight disease

Dr Adam Walker is the current Ross Maclean Senior Research Fellow, whose laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms of MND.

“We are exploring the biochemical changes that happen very early on in the disease, especially to TDP43, the main protein involved in almost all cases of MND,” Dr Walker said.

“We’re building a map of protein changes throughout the disease course using some exciting new technology that has only been developed in the last few years.

“It’s allowing us to see changes in the brain and spinal cord that we wouldn’t see if we only looked at the end stage. We predict that some of them are early responses designed to protect the body against MND, that later fail and allow the disease to progress.

“These early protective responses that fail could be treatment targets–if we can ensure that the protective response continues throughout the disease, this could potentially slow or even stop the progress of disease.

“My team wouldn’t be able to do these ground-breaking studies without the Ross Maclean fellowship. There’s not a lot of stability in scientific research, so having a five-year fellowship at this stage in my career is unique.

“It has enabled me to really focus on improving our fundamental knowledge of MND, rather than worrying where the next dollar to fund the work is coming from.”

Last updated:
23 March 2023