Germany will experience a fundamental demographic change in the coming decades. As a consequence age-related diseases will be increasing. This applies in particular to dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease but also to other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. According to estimates, in 2018, there were about 1.6 million people with dementia in Germany. By 2050 their number is expected to rise to approximately 2.8 million.1) Dementia therefore represents a tremendous social and economic challenge. According to estimates by the DZNE, total societal costs for Germany in 2016 amounted to around 73 billion euros2) and might approximately double in the next 20 years.
Against this background, the DZNE was founded in 2009 as a member of the Helmholtz Association and as the first of the German Centres for Health Research (DZG). Today, it comprises ten sites (Berlin, Bonn, Dresden, Göttingen, Magdeburg, Munich, Rostock/Greifswald, Tübingen, Ulm and Witten) and thus concentrates expertise, which is distributed throughout Germany within a single research institution. The DZNE’s more than 1,000 staff members, who are distributed throughout about 80 working groups, investigate the similarities and differences of various neurodegenerative diseases with the aim of developing new preventive and therapeutic approaches. The DZNE is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German federal states (Bundesländer) in which DZNE sites are located.
The common feature of the diseases investigated by the DZNE is neurodegeneration: a pathological process that damages nerve cells. Neurodegeneration can lead to dementia, trigger movement disorders and also massively impair health in other ways. Examples include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
The DZNE is dedicated to neurodegenerative diseases in all their facets. To cover this diversity, the DZNE pursues an interdisciplinary research strategy that comprises five interconnected areas: Fundamental research, clinical research, health care research, population research and systems medicine. In line with this agenda, DZNE experts cooperate across sites and disciplines to promote translation of research findings into practical application.