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Research

The overall aim of the CTNR is to identify and target resilience mechanisms in neurodegeneration to implement innovative therapeutic concepts for primary and secondary neurodegenerative processes.

Resilience, in this context, is understood as an integrated concept for physical, cognitive and psycho-social resistance against neurodegenerative insults and/or their impacts. The concept thus ranges from neuroprotective and neuroregenerative factors on the molecular and cell biology level and cognitive and physical resources on the patient level to psycho-social and health system aspects on the population level.

The detailed knowledge of these resilience factors provides new perspectives for disease-modifying therapeutic interventions in primary and secondary neurodegeneration. The CTNR is organized into three tightly connected topics to lead to a qualitative leap in three dimensions:

  1. Strong focus on mechanisms of resilience und their interplay with neurodegenerative processes to overcome the current standstill in the development of causative treatments for major neurodegenerative diseases.
  2. Adoption of the concept of precision medicine to neurodegenerative disease care to establish predictors for cerebral resilience in primary and secondary neurodegeneration in humans.
  3. Adoption of continuous bi-directional translation pathways where patient centeredness and patient-relevance and sustainability for the care system are the guiding principles for the development of new treatments and preventions for neurodegenerative insults.

Ad I. Mechanisms of resilience and their interplay with neurodegenerative processes

This topic is established in various research groups of the theoretical and clinical departments of the University Medical Centre Rostock in strong cooperation with engineer-science institutes of the University of Rostock. This strong connection of biomedical research and engineering science is exemplarily demonstrated by the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1270 “Electrically Active Implants (ELAINE)”. A strong focus of the Rostock neuroscience community is the research on cell and animal models of neurodegenerative diseases with a clear focus on molecular and cellular mechanisms of resilience of neurons and their systems. The CTNR focuses on rare and mostly monogenetic neurodegenerative diseases, such as Amyotrophic Lateralsclerosis (ALS), Niemann-Pick disease and neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis (NCL) and on application-oriented animal models of Parkinson’s disease. 

Ad II. Precision medicine to establish predictors for cerebral resilience in primary and secondary neurodegeneration in humans

One key topic of the Rostock site of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative diseases (DZNE) is the development of imaging and biochemical biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases and potential resilience markers. As an internationally unique selling point for Rostock, the whole developmental pipeline of such markers from multimodal animal imaging, functional imaging in small clinical cohorts to populations-based approaches in primary care settings is established in Rostock. Through the integration into large multicentre studies, such as the European DTI Study in Dementia, the European ADNI study, the European Huntington disease network, the German networks on ALS/FTD and Parkinson’s disease together with the cohort studies of the DZNE, Rostock’s neuroscience research is integrated into national and international networks with high visibility and the possibility of fast and targeted recruitment of patient populations. The joint work offers a strong link to fundamental and applied research in computer and cognitive science to develop information and communication technology based measures of human behaviour and function to monitor the course of neurodegenerative diseases and detect intervention effects on physical and functional patient-centred outcomes. 

Ad III. Adoption of continuous bi-directional translation pathways for development of new treatments and preventions in neurodegenerative diseases

The competence not only in basic science-oriented research in cell and animal models of neurodegenerative diseases as outlined above, but also a strong expertise in clinical research ensures the continuous bi-directional translational process to overcome current translational roadblocks in the development of novel therapeutic interventions. In this context, intervention is seen as a broad concept integrating all treatment approaching to strengthen physical, cognitive and psycho-social resistance against neurodegenerative insults and/or their impacts. The development of dementia assistance systems is one key topic of the Department Ageing of the Individual and of Society at the Interdisciplinary Faculty of the University of Rostock. In addition, the clinical members within the CTNR (clinical departments and the DZNE) are already conducting more than 30 mono- and multicentre trials in parallel, including investigator-initiated trials (IITs) according to the AMG in various indications such as dementias, movement disorders and motor neuron diseases, which together form a strong basis for the overall aim of the CTNR, namely to implement innovative therapeutic concepts for primary and secondary neurodegenerative processes.

To foster the transdisciplinary work within the scientific areas of neurosciences at the University Medicine Rostock and to develop an identity, the Centre for Transdisciplinary Neurosciences provides an excellent research environment. For the scientific and educational program, the CTNR has the necessary infrastructure including theoretical and clinical institutes, departments and working groups. The CTNR also acts as a catalyst for new research collaborations beyond the current environment.

SMARTGEM - Smartphone supported migraine therapy

The SMARTGEM project aims to enable effective, time-saving and cost-saving treatment of common migraine headaches: patients can use their smartphone app (M-sense) to document their headaches and identify potential triggering factors.

PI University Medical Center Rostock: PD Dr. med. Tim Jürgens

Funding body: Innovationsfonds des Gemeinsamen Bundesauschuss 

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AgeGain - Senior citizens train their mental fitness

In the study AgeGain, cognitively healthy older people complete four weeks of computer-based cognitive training. The dementia researchers under the direction of Prof. Stefan Teipel at the University Medical Centre Rostock measure the participants’ cognitive performance, brain structure and functioning as well as physical activity. AgeGain aims at identifying the neurobiological signs that predict if a person is able to transfer the improvement in trained exercises to other tasks that have not been practiced. This is essential, since cognitive training is ultimately intended to enhance cognitive functions needed for activities of daily living, in order to maintain independency and social participation in old age. In participatory workshops, the AgeGain participants additionally get the opportunity to actively analyse their own data.

The study is conducted in collaboration with three centres: the University Medical Center Mainz, the University Hospital Cologne and the German Sport University Cologne. AgeGain started in 2016. It is funded for a duration of four years by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (grant number: 01GQ1425A).

PI University Medical Center Rostock: Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Teipel

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Cerebral FGF21-resistance as cause of the obesity-associated neurodegeneration

Metabolic syndrome, which includes visceral obesity, elevated triglycerides, elevated fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure and a decrease in HDL-cholesterol levels, comprises the most common chronic physical illness in modern society. Hypercholesterolemia may exert a negative effect on cognitive performance. One hormone, which regulates carbohydrate and lipid homeostasis and therefore the body weight, is the Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21).  

 

PI University Medical Center Rostock: PD Dr. rer. nat. Angela Kuhla

 

Funding body: DFG

 

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AHeaD – Künftige Aufgabenteilung von Pflegefachpersonen und Hausärzten in der ambulanten Demenzversorgung: Aufgaben, Akzeptanz, Qualifikation

The AHeaD study investigates how the outpatient care of people with dementia can be shaped in the future with a changed division of labor between nurses and general practitioners and is accepted by the specialist groups as well as by those affected and their relatives.

PI University Medical Center Rostock: Prof. Dr. med. Attila Altiner

Funding body: Innovationsfonds des Gemeinsamen Bundesauschuss 

Funding duration: May 2017 - April 2020

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CRC 1270 ELAINE: C03 Deep brain stimulation in dystonia models: Biological implementation, approximation of stimulation parameters and analysis of mechanisms

The aim of this project is to clarify the mechanisms of action of deep brain stimulation in dystonia, to define stimulation targets and stimulation paradigms, and to identify therapeutic success markers. We hypothesise that deep brain stimulation improves pathophysiological processes of dystonia, specifically synaptic / cellular plasticity, inhibitory tone and network oscillations via specific network changes, depending on target structure and stimulation parameters. We will therefore analyse the underlying mechanisms of deep brain stimulation, narrow down effective stimulation parameters, identify early biomarkers of therapeutic outcome, and analyse and model the effects of deep brain stimulation on the extended basal ganglia network.

PI University Medical Center Rostock: Prof. Dr. med. Rüdiger Köhling

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CRC 1270 ELAINE: C04 Effects of deep brain stimulation on adult neurogenesis in a rat model of Parkinson`s disease: Mechanisms of action, stimulation parameters and correlation with behaviour

Parkinson's disease is characterised by typical motor symptoms and various non-motor symptoms such as depression and dementia, which are conceivably related to defective neuronal plasticity. Although deep brain stimulation is meanwhile a routine procedure in advanced Parkinson's disease, the mechanisms behind its effects on non-motor symptoms remain elusive. We here propose to investigate the mechanisms of deep-brain stimulation related to the interplay between cellular brain plasticity and non-motor symptoms in a rat model for Parkinson's disease. The results will contribute not only to the understanding of actions of deep-brain stimulation, but also to knowledge of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying depression and cognitive dysfunction.

PI University Medical Center Rostock: Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Storch

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