Covid-19 is popularly considered to be a disease of the lungs, which in severe cases can lead to death due to failure of the respiratory system. On the other hand, symptoms indicating neurological effects of the disease are also commonly known, such as loss of the sense of smell and taste as well as forgetfulness and reduced motivation as a result of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Neurodegenerative diseases in their entire spectrum remain the designated research subject of the DZNE - from the molecular basis to patient care in nursing homes. However, challenges and methods in the research of neurodegenerative diseases are quite alike to the tasks that the new virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease Covid-19 confront us with - in many places there are even clear parallels.
- Causes and mechanisms of disease development are neither completely identified for neurodegenerative diseases, nor for Covid-19 yet. In order to make further progress here, state-of-the-art research methods and technologies from molecular biology, genetics, bioinformatics and medical imaging are necessary, which the DZNE greatly can provide.
- The human immune system and its antibodies against pathogens from outside as well as against endogenous substances play important roles - both in neurodegenerative diseases and for various courses of Covid-19.
- Elderly people are most affected by diseases such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, but also by severe Covid-19 courses. People with dementia are dependent on care, live in nursing homes to a large disproportionate extent, and thus carry a significantly higher Covid infection risk.
- Decoding these diseases is so complex that it cannot be solved by any one discipline alone or in a single institution - no matter how competent they may be. What is needed are coordinated, interdisciplinary approaches as well as collaborations between different, specialized partners. With its 10 sites in Germany and its nationally and internationally interconnected structure, the DZNE has been designed for this type of collaboration since its founding.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, researchers at the DZNE have therefore also been contributing their expertise and resources to the global fight against Covid-19. According to the motto "While the world slowed down, science speeded up!”, researchers are working at full speed to provide scientifically sound answers and sustainably effective solutions to the global problem.
The DZNE is part of a number of consortiums among universities, university hospitals, and other institutions coordinating their Covid-related research projects, resources, and results with each other.
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One of the ways for the body to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus is through antibodies. These can be produced with industrial precision and are thus suitable for passive vaccination, i.e. a defense against the coronavirus that is not triggered by the immune system itself. Researchers at the DZNE in Berlin have identified a number of suitable antibodies, confirmed their efficacy, and are now collaborating with a biotechnology company to develop a passive vaccination on this basis.
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Different people react in different ways to an infection with SARS-CoV-2. But why do some people hardly notice an infection, while in others it is severe or even fatal? Part of the answer lies in gene activity and immune system functioning. Researchers at the DZNE in Bonn, among others, have been investigating how this can lead to more precise, patient-specific treatments.
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Virus propagation / Molecular mechanics
Which factors favor the entry of the virus into the cell, which cell types are particularly at risk, and which reproductive mechanisms ensure a particularly effective replication of the viral genome in the infected cells? Researchers at various DZNE sites have found answers to these questions using molecular biological methods.
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- “Hotspots” of a corona infection in the human body
- Preliminary findings: Apparently, the Coronavirus also takes a second door
- Viral Vinaigrette - SARS-CoV-2 uses physical tricks to reproduce
Health determinants and seroprevalence
More than 5,000 participants in a longitudinal study (the Rhineland Study in Bonn, Germany) were screened for current or past infection with SARS-CoV2 to examine the impact of general health, lifestyle, and immune status on disease progression.
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Citizen-Science-App: Corona and cognitive performance
An app developed jointly with a start-up at the DZNE site in Magdeburg is investigating whether and what effects a covid disease has on memory performance as part of a citizen science project.
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