Cooperation Unit Translational studies and biomarker

Prof. Dr. Inga Zerr

Areas of investigation/research focus

The main research interests include genomics leading to proteomics and interactomics based techniques within deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms and post-translational modifications by regulating the function and translocation of proteins involved in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, degenerative dementia, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) diseases. The main projects are,

  1. Role of epigenetic mechanisms in prion diseases. To ascertain the main molecular mechanism/s contributing to the neurodegenerative process, we pursue to investigate the role epigenetic modifiers (mainly smalRNAs and methylation) and other transcriptional regulationary events such as RNA-editing in the pathogenesis of prion diseases and other rapid progressive dementias.
  2. Neuroinflammation as a key molecular switch in neurodegenerative dementia. Causative processes of neurodegeneration have yet to been fully identified. Our studies are focused on identifications and the understanding of the complex mixtures of pro- and anti-inflammatory responses.
  3. Development of an in vitro amplification assay for misfolded proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. Until now we developed in-vitro protein amplification systems for the detection of misfolded PrPSc in the cerebrospinal fluid of human prion diseases.
  4. Proteome based disease specific signature in neurodegenerative diseases. We established proteomics based analysis to ascertain the main risk modifiers and disease signatures, to better understand the underlying disease mechanisms contributing to the neurodegenerative process. Classical gel based and new in-solution SWATH based techniques will be applied to separate identifies protein complexes from different fractions (including soluble fraction and non-soluble fractions) and identified by ESI-Q-TOF mass spectrometry.

Dr. Saima Zafar directs a large interdisciplinary neuro-proteomics research projects primarily centered on understanding the patho-physiology of rapid progressive brain disorders such as Prion, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson's disease as well as the mechanisms underlying the identification of early disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets. The main research interests include genomics leading to proteomic and interactomic based techniques for deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms and post-translational modifications. Translational study in cell and animal models; pre-clinical biomarkers identification; clinical interactomics and differential proteome alteration study; mass spectrometric analysis and confocal laser canning approaches to uncover translational medicine propensity.

Dr. Matthias Schmitz focuses on the study of misfolded proteins, such as PrPSc, Aß, Tau and α-synuclein in neurodegenerative diseases. With the help of a novel aggregation assay, the RT-QuIC, the characteristics of these proteins can be studied  in the brain and in cerebrospinal fluid of dementia patients. Also disease-relevant pathological processes in cells and  in transgenic mouse models are investigated.

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