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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 298409, 9 pages
Review Article

Motor Neuron Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Need for More Population-Based Studies

1Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK
2Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, School of Biological Science, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana
3Department of Science Laboratory Technology, School of Applied Science and Technology, Wa Polytechnic, Wa, Ghana

Received 24 April 2015; Accepted 1 June 2015

Academic Editor: Charlotte J. Sumner

Copyright © 2015 Emmanuel Quansah and Thomas K. Karikari. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are devastating neurological diseases that are characterised by gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons. Major types of MNDs include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). These diseases are incurable, with limited disease-modifying treatment options. In order to improve MND-based biomedical research, drug development, and clinical care, population-based studies will be important. These studies, especially among less-studied populations, might identify novel factors controlling disease susceptibility and resistance. To evaluate progress in MND research in Africa, we examined the published literature on MNDs in Sub-Saharan Africa to identify disease prevalence, genetic factors, and other risk factors. Our findings indicate that the amount of research evidence on MNDs in Sub-Saharan Africa is scanty; molecular and genetics-based studies are particularly lacking. While only a few genetic studies were identified, these studies strongly suggest that there appear to be population-specific causes of MNDs among Africans. MND genetic underpinnings vary among different African populations and also between African and non-African populations. Further studies, especially molecular, genetic and genomic studies, will be required to advance our understanding of MND biology among African populations. Insights from these studies would help to improve the timeliness and accuracy of clinical diagnosis and treatment.