Bart’s �250,000 motor neurone study launched by wheelchair patient

A man confined to a wheelchair with motor neurone disease has helped set up a groundbreaking research project in east London by raising �100,000 towards it.

Wayne Sammut joins clinicians and researchers from Barts Health NHS Trust and the University of London’s Queen Mary College today (Thurs) to launch the �250,000 project that aims to find a way to slow down the debilitating disease.

The 50-year-old financial management consultant was diagnosed in 2009 after nine months of symptoms such as muscle spasms and cramp.

He now has to be fed through a tube and has to use a breathing machine at night.

But Wayne still works full-time from home as operations director of an asset management and investment company.

“Family and friends were anxious to help raise as much money as possible,” he said.

“My daughter Maddie who’s 14 personally wrote letters to chairmen of 100 companies for donations.

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“The generosity has made this study possible and will hopefully bring us a step closer to finding a cure for this insidious disease.”

Motor neurone is an incurable disease that attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing muscles to waste over time. It affects 5,000 people in Britain who have an average life expectancy between two and five years once diagnosed.

Barts & The London Charity has contributed �150,000 to the three-year study after Wayne’s family and colleagues raised the rest.

Consultant neurologist Dr Aleksandar Radunovic said: “Wayne is a massive advocate for research which is so important for scientific breakthroughs—we simply couldn’t do it without that support.”

The study will look at whether cells inside muscles can be manipulated to regain their function as researchers take biopsies and block different genes to see how the cells react.