Dementia, developmental disorders and psychoses: Helmholtz Association funds DZNE research project on autoantibodies with 2.3 million euros

Berlin/Bonn, November 5, 2019. - In the "BaoBab" project (Brain antibody-omics and B-cell Lab), researchers at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) are developing a technical platform with which so-called autoantibodies that cause brain diseases can be identified and investigated. The team headed by PD Dr. Harald Prüß will receive around 2.3 million euros in funding from the Helmholtz Initiative and Networking Fund in the Helmholtz Innovation Labs funding line.

Antibodies protect against viruses and bacteria. But sometimes the immune system attacks one’s own body: in a misguided immune reaction, it produces autoantibodies that damage one’s own cells instead of fighting pathogens. If the autoantibodies reach the brain, they can trigger neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases.

The "BaoBab" project aims to investigate every type of autoantibody found in the brain. To this end, Harald Prüß from the DZNE’s Berlin site is developing a technical platform in cooperation with Dr. Eugenio Fava from the DZNE’s Bonn site. With this platform, many thousand types of autoantibodies from cerebrospinal fluid can be characterized and obtained in an automated process. The cerebrospinal fluid is derived from people with different immunological, neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases: reaching from encephalitis (brain inflammation) to antibody-associated psychoses, dementia and developmental disorders.

"We want to understand how these antibodies affect the function of nerve cells," said Harald Prüß. "In addition, autoantibodies are an ideal tool for developing new diagnostics and new therapies for antibody-mediated brain disorders. In ‘BaoBab’, the DZNE also cooperates with partners from industry and academia.”

Source: DZNE / Daniel Bayer

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