People in Griffith are seven times more likely to get deadly motor neurone disease - and the researchers trying to figure out why have run out of money.
For the past five years, Macquarie University's MND Research Centre has been trying to uncover why Griffith's rate of motor neurone disease is significantly higher than the national average.
As part of the research, the team has been studying if blue-green algae, metals and pesticides found in the region's waterways could be triggering the deadly disease.
Professor Gilles Guillemin, an internationally recognised leader for studies into neurodegenerative disease and the head of the neuroinflammation group at the centre, says they will not be able to complete their study without help.
...I'm trying to do the research, but without money I cannot do the researchProfessor Gilles Guillemin, MND Research Centre
"It's simple, without money I cannot do the research," Professor Guillemin said.
"We are applying for grants but the grant success rate in Australia is about 10 to 15 percent, so it may be another few years before we could get the funding ... I'm just trying to get enough to finish it in the next three years."
After a failed attempt by Member for Murray Helen Dalton to secure funding from the NSW Government for the project, Prof Guillemin is now turning to powerful Riverina industries and individual donors for help.
"There is a lot of money in the food industry in the Riverina and if any of these big industries can just chip in a little bit and put some money on the table we will be able to keep going on this project," he said.
MND causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness, meaning it significantly affects the nerves which control the muscles used to move, speak, breathe and swallow.
The prevalence of the disease in the region has had a devastating impact on numerous families.
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Michelle Vearing, a patient liaison officer with the Motor Neurone Griffith and District Support Group, had her grandfather and mother killed by the disease, and her sister has been diagnosed with it.
She says she hopes Professor Guillemin can find the funding he needs.
"Gilles has done a lot of research and he's visited Griffith often in the last 7 or 8 years," Mrs Vearing said.
"The work he had done in our local area is imperative to finding what's causing MND. If they find what's causing the disease they can then hopefully find a cure."
Any companies or individual donors willing to support this research and donate are urged to do so at the PANDIS website.
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