NeuroCure - Towards a better outcome of neurological disorders
Scientists working at the Cluster of Excellence called 'NeuroCure – Towards a Better Outcome of Neurological Disorders' want to change this. NeuroCure is a joint interdisciplinary research network involving Humboldt-Universität and the Freie Universität Berlin at Charité Hospital. It wants the findings of basic neuroscience research to be tested more often in clinical studies with the aim of developing new therapies.
Video: "New prospects for neurological diseases"
The research focuses on diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and developmental disorders of the central nervous system. Although these all have different causes and effects, they also have many things in common. For example, it is known today that immunological processes play a major role not only in the primarily inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis, but also in diseases that are not first and foremost inflammatory, such as stroke. Against this background, NeuroCure's research concentrates not only on the individual diseases, but also on the underlying disease mechanisms that they share.
Clinicians and basic researchers working closely together
In order to quickly apply basic research findings in practical treatments, each research area is headed jointly by a basic researcher and a clinician. They work together in the newly established NeuroCure Clinical Research Centre (NCRC). Another key component of the Cluster of Excellence will be an 'Interdisciplinary Centre for Modern Imaging' which is currently being built at Charité Hospital. The aim here is to develop and test new imaging techniques to improve research into brain functions, and to use these techniques to monitor therapy.
NeuroCure further upgrades Berlin, which is already an attractive neuroscience centre, by adding 20 newly appointed professorships and working groups. The Excellence Initiative will be providing more than €80 million for this purpose up to 2017. Roughly 20 professors have already started their research work in Berlin. The fact that more than 500 applications have been received from over 20 countries demonstrates the great interest in the research cluster. The newly appointed professors include researchers who have moved to Berlin from renowned institutions abroad, e.g. neuroscientist Christian Rosenmund from Baylor College in Houston, one of the leading medical universities in the USA.
Data processing in the brain
Christian Rosenmund is interested in the molecular processes involved in communication between nerve cells. In the human brain, data processing is organized by a network of about 100 billion nerve cells. Christian Rosenmund is studying the function of synapses – the junctions between nerve cells and other cells – in this process. Today it is believed that learning and memory processes – and even feelings – are caused by a strengthening or weakening of synaptic transmission. Christian Rosenmund, who has also worked at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in recent years, has contributed toward a better understanding of these highly complex processes which take place several million times a second in our brain. He has also shown how synaptic disturbances can lead to autism and other neurological disorders.
Among other issues, the currently over 30 scientists working at NeuroCure and its working groups are studying the evolution-related, stereotype processes involved in the death of cells with the aim of finding treatment options. Protecting nerve cells from destruction is one of the main challenges posed by neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and dementia. The body's own protective mechanisms are also being investigated in the search for new therapeutic approaches. For example, when the flow of blood to the brain is reduced, e.g. when a person has a stroke, cells in the vicinity of the injury are activated; these are then more resistant if a second injury occurs. Individual cells use these mechanisms to protect themselves from future damage, and this is what the scientists want to understand. In principle, however, the central nervous system has little chance of regenerating itself after cells have been destroyed or the circulation of blood to the brain has been reduced. These and many other questions are what concern the scientists at NeuroCure – and they are working hard to resolve them.
Researchers initiated clinical trials
NeuroCure focuses not only on studying neuroscientific processes and mechanisms, but also on quickly implementing the findings of basic research in clinical action. To this purpose, the knowledge gained from laboratory experiments is checked in investigator-initiated trials (IITs) in which both new therapies and new diagnostic methods are tested. The NeuroCure Clinical Research Centre (NCRC) forms the interface between NeuroCure's basic researchers and clinicians. It provides the necessary infrastructure and support for conducting dedicated clinical studies.
- Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin
- Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
- Freie Universität Berlin
Non-university research institutions
- Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC)
- Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMP)
- German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ)