"IF YOU could design the worst disease to torture a person, motor neurone disease would be it."
So says Professor Dominic Rowe from Macquarie University who is on a mission to find a cure for the disease before 2018.
To help Dr Rowe and his team of 30 researchers in the motor neurone department find a cure before their deadline, Castle Hill Rotary Club will donate funds raised from the 19th Annual Tour de Hills charity ride to further their work.
It will also raise money for Police Legacy, Rural Fire Services, International Rotary Foundation and the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund.
The disease attacks the central nervous system with most sufferers dying between two and five years after onset.
"By the time that you have your first bit of weakness your motor neurone disease has been going on for some two to five years," Dr Rowe said.
"So, it might start in your foot and then it will spread to other areas of the body.
"It spreads through your spinal cord and your brain.
"Ultimately you can't walk, you can't dress yourself, you can't feed yourself, you can't speak, you can't swallow your saliva, you can't breath and then you die."
Data collected by Dr Rowe's research team has revealed the prevalence of the disease has increased by 250 per cent over 25 years.
"At any one time there are 2500 to 3000 people with motor neurone disease in Australia," he said.
"In 1986 your risk of dying from the motor neurone disease was one in 500. In 2011 your risk from dying from the disease was one in 180."
About 10 per cent of cases have a family history of the disease, while the majority of cases are sporadic.
The research team is looking into genetic and environmental factors which could trigger the disease.
Dr Rowe said they were looking into everything to find a cure.
"We are not here to twiddle our thumbs," he said. "There are therapies out there to stop this disease and they are right under our nose but we have to do research to find them."
Register for the Castle Hill Rotary Club’s annual Tour de Hills, sponsored by the News and The Australian Hotel & Brewery, on Sunday, March 2. There are four tracks to chose from: 15, 30, 50 and 90 kilometres. ■ Details: tourdehills.com.au.