University and ALS Malta sign agreement putting Malta at forefront of ALS research

ALS Malta and the University of Malta sign agreement for three-year Ph.D. programme in ALS research

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Yannick Pace
5 December 2016, 3:33pm
A research is currently mapping the Maltese genome in order to understand the characteristics of the disease that are unique to the Maltese population
A research is currently mapping the Maltese genome in order to understand the characteristics of the disease that are unique to the Maltese population
The funds being donated by ALS Malta Foundation to the University of Malta will help add to the university's ALS research and contribute to putting Malta at the forefront of ALS research, said Ruben J Cauchi, a senior lecturer at the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry.

Cauchi was speaking at the signing of an agreement between ALS Malta Foundation and the University of Malta, that will see the foundation contribute €90,000 towards a three-year Ph.D. study programme in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease. The study programme will be run in MND LAB at the University of Malta.

He commended ALS sufferer and foundation founder Bjorn Formosa for the awareness he has raised and well as the donations he has made to help others with the condition.

"As a foundation we decided to take a slightly different approach. We are tackling issues faced by our patients while also using more of an intellectual approach and investing in education and research," Formosa said.

He said that he would like for the programme to grow and for there to be more of these scholarships while thanking the Maltese population for all the support it has shown.

Cauchi, who is already working in the field of ALS research, explained that the condition is characterized by the death of motor neurons, resulting in muscle weakness and ultimately resulting in immobility amongst other symptoms.

He said that the condition is genetic in nature and the programme will be mapping the Maltese genome in order to understand the characteristics of the disease that are unique to the Maltese population.

"We hope to find the mistakes in the DNA of the Maltese population that creates this disease," said Cauchi.

He said that Malta, owing to its small size, would make it easier to identify the faults leading to ALS, that are unique to the population.

Moreover, he said that once they have identified the faults have been identified, it will allow for research to be targeted more specifically to the Maltese population.

University Rector Alfred Vella thanked Formosa for his contribution and stressed that the importance of the University to going beyond the campus and working within society for the betterment of people's lives.

"It is important for people to know what is happening, that the university is doing research and that it is impacting their lives," said Vella.

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Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...