EU funds top research at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Bonn, January 22nd, 2020. Neuroscientist Dr. Martin Fuhrmann from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) has been awarded a "Consolidator Grant" from the European Research Council (ERC) worth 1.7 million euros. With the funds, Fuhrmann is pursuing a completely new research approach on how immune cells of the brain can contribute to the formation of new nerve cell connections - always in search of promising therapies for brain diseases such as Alzheimer's.
There are not only nerve cells in the brain, but also immune cells, the so-called microglia. These protect the brain from pathogens. Previous research shows that they also have an effect on nerve cells: Microglia can separate the connections (synapses) between nerve cells. This probably also happens in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The separation of connections disrupts the transmission of information between nerve cells and leads to cognitive impairments such as memory disorders.
Fuhrmann has now discovered initial evidence that microglia do not only separate synapses, but are also involved in the formation of new synapses. "This would imply that microglia play a fundamental role in the formation of synapses," he says. In the "MicroSynCom" ("Microglia Synapse Communication") project, Fuhrmann and his team will use laboratory experiments to investigate the underlying mechanisms of synapse formation by microglia. Among other things, a so-called 2-photon STED microscope will be purchased for the research project, which will enable particularly precise measurements at the nanometer scale.
"This is a pioneering research project, because we are entering completely new territory. Microglia as mediators of new synapse formation have only been scarcely investigated before," says Fuhrmann. "If we understand how we can use microglia to stimulate the formation of new nerve cell connections, then this might potentially be used in the future to treat neurodegenerative diseases in which synapse loss often occurs".
The ERC Consolidator Grants support excellent scientists working on future-oriented projects. The grants are spread over a period of five years and are awarded in a highly competitive selection process: In the current competition, a total of 318 researchers were selected for funding from 2,453 applications across Europe.
On the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
The DZNE investigates all aspects of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in order to develop novel approaches of prevention, treatment, and health care. The DZNE is comprised of ten sites across Germany and cooperates closely with universities, university hospitals, and other institutions on a national and international level.