Posted: Mar 7, 2013 6:58 PM by Jen Fenter - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - The McLaughlin Research Institute wants to find the cure to an extremely rare disease, and is asking for help from Montanans.
With research funding diminishing in the face of sequestration - federal budget cuts - the institute has turned to social media in hopes of winning a $10,000 prize.
McLaughlin Research Institute scientists have been long-time leaders in the study of deadly, brain-wasting diseases, and are now working on finding the answer to a hereditary disease called fatal familial insomnia (FFI).
George Carlson, the director of the facility, explained, "Inability to sleep, you start becoming demented, losing consciousness, inability to recognize your loved ones -- like Alzheimer's, except death occurs within a year of diagnosis."
Carlson says FFI is an extremely rare disease affecting roughly 100 people worldwide.
The McLaughlin Research Institute has partnered with the Prion Alliance, a foundation started after a woman watched her mother die from the disease, and knows she now faces the same.
Carlson says the research into FFI will not only benefit the small population affected, but could lead to discoveries that impact much more common diseases: "Now we know that the mechanisms involved in prion disorders are how Alzheimer's, for example, spreads from one part of the brain to the other. Other diseases like Parkinson's spread from one part of the nervous system to the other."
Carlson and his team submitted a research package to the Rare Disease Science Challenge in December and won bio-informatics software.
They are now one of the top ten finalists and could win $10,000.
To win, McLaughlin Research Institute must get the most online votes through the Facebook contest.