We are especially interested on the mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Synaptic failure is believed to be one of the initial events in Alzheimer`s disease and supposed to be responsible for the irreversible nerve cell loss and progressive dementia characteristic for this disease.
Jochen Herms’ lab addresses this experimentally mainly by either analysing various transgenic mouse models of these diseases or by analysing knock-out mice in which proteins are lacking that are critically involved in these diseases, like the Amyloid precursor protein (APP), Presenilins, BACE, Tau or alpha-synuclein. These knockout mice are not only interesting for the identification of potential gain or loss of function mechanisms in the pathophysilogy of neurodegenerative diseases but more importantly may allow the identification of potential synaptic side effects of therapeutical strategies which affect the physiological function of these proteins.
Apart from standard techniques like molecular biology, histochemistry and electrophysiology the Lab applies and further develops high end imaging techniques like long-term in vivo two-photon imaging. This technique allows us to follow the fate of individual synapses over weeks to months within their physiological environment. Moreover parameters that are supposed to be involved in synaptic failure including microglia activation, the extracellular matrix, vascularisation, mitochondrial function, and neuronal activity, can be studied in vivo over extended periods of time. Prof. Herms and his colleagues cooperate with leading companies for medical deceives to discover new non-invasive optical approaches for the early identification of people at risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.