The microscopic events underlying neurodegenerative diseases are still poorly understood. DZNE therefore conducts laboratory studies to identify causes and mechanisms of disease, with the aim of finding approaches for the development of novel therapies. For this, we investigate human cells as well as model organisms, such as flies, fish, worms, and mice. We want to understand the fundamentals of normal brain function as well as disease-specific phenomena on the microscopy level. What makes you sick? What keeps you healthy? We are searching for answers in the molecular “machinery” of life.
The spectrum of this research area is very diverse, ranging from mechanisms of cell biology or the question of how neurons communicate with each other, to the role of inflammatory mechanisms and abnormal proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, we investigate how genes influence the risk of disease and how external factors affect this risk (so-called “epigenetics”). We also address the mechanisms of “neuroplasticity,” which enable the brain to change throughout life and compensate for damage to some extent. Fostering this ability could be an approach to new therapies. Another focus of research is on aging processes, since aging is a major risk factor for neurodegeneration.
Building on this diversity in fundamental research, and close exchange with other disciplines, DZNE aims to identify biomarkers and potential drug targets. This involves the use of cutting-edge technologies, including the latest microscopy methods, so-called OMICs technologies for genome and protein analysis, and artificial intelligence for analyzing data.