A new urine test for motor neurone disease could lead to improved treatments.

Motor neurone disease (MND) kills nerve cells that control muscle movement, leaving sufferers with life expectancy of just a few years after diagnosis.

But a new test which measures a key protein in urine could help.

The test measures the protein in MND sufferers over time to show whether or not a treatment is working.

Developed in part by South Australian researchers, the test measures 75ECD, a urinary protein that appears more as the disease progresses.

Experts say it could be a vast improvement.

“At the moment in clinical trials, what the clinicians are mostly using is like a questionnaire-based marker where they ask different things about their daily living and it's added up to a score,” said Flinders University researcher Mary-Louise Rogers.

“What we can do is add to this and say; ‘We can use this in a clinical trial to see whether the treatment is working or not’.

“Also there is no cure and people die within two to three years of diagnosis most often, at the most five years."

Dr Rogers hopes the findings will lead to increased funding to expanding into clinical trials.

Given that current tests for the disease are questionnaire-based, she says the urine test will also deliver much-needed objective results.

“A standardised, easy-to-collect urine test could be used as a more accurate progression and prognostic biomarker in clinical trials,” she said.

“And in the future, it also could potentially be used to test people for early signs of pre-familial MND progression.”