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Research on Parkinson’s disease and leukaemia

New Bavarian research network finances FAU projects

Two projects of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) will be funded by the recently established Bavarian Research Network for Molecular Biosystems (BioSysNet): Dr. Beate Winner from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Clinical Research (IZKF) is investigating disrupted connections between nerve cells in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Prof. Dr. Robert Slany from the Department of Genetics is studying the medical processes which occur in children with leukaemia. The research network has received a total of 18.1 million euros in funding from the Bavarian State Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts as part of the initiative ‘Bavaria on the Move’.

Investigating the early stages of Parkinson’s diesease
“Patients with Parkinson’s are subject to various proteins collecting in the nerve cells such as alpha-syncucleins,”explains Dr. Beate Winner. “This inhibits the interaction between the nerve cells as small clumps of protein which contain alpha-synuclein block the connection between the nerve cells”. Dr Winner, Dr. Francesc Perez-Branguli and their research team are currently investigating which additional genetic factors contribute to this loss of connectivity. The research project ‘Transcriptome analyses for investigating synaptic dysfunction in synucleinopathies’ will receive approximately 250,000 euros in funding from the BioSysNet project.

Learning about children with leukaemia
Prof. Dr. Robert Slany’s project aims to gain a greater understanding into leukaemia in children. “Leukaemia cells can be compared to a pocket watch that can no longer keep time as parts of the mechanism are moving too quickly,” describes Professor Slany. This leaves the bodies control mechanisms completely out of control. As a result, leukaemia cells become resistant to any attempt to stop them from growing and eventually overwhelm the organism.

“Up until now we have explored several different potential causes to discover the reason for this abnormal behaviour. However, now we are able to use ground breaking techniques to examine the complete mechanism and its individual parts by observing and analysing it as a whole,” says Slany. By comparing healthy cells and leukaemia cells with methods used in the field of systems biology, Slany and his team were able to examine the entire progression of Leukaemia for the first time from the top down and thus gain a better understanding of it. The equipment required for this research technique is still extremely expensive and it is all but impossible to finance it with funding from traditional research grants. “This is why the innovative Bavarian Research model BioSysNet is a unique opportunity for us to further pursue our research objectives. Professor Slany’s project is entitled ‘Transcriptional priming as global mechanism controlling self renewal and differentiation during hematopoietic development”. The project has received a research grant of 250,000 euros from the Bavarian research network.

BioSysNet
The Bavarian Research Network for Molecular Biosystems aims to reinforce, promote and consolidate biological systems research in Bavaria and currently funds 23 projects at universities and universities of applied sciences in Bavaria. BioSysNet protects innovation in a future-oriented research field central to all academic and commercial activities in biomedicine. The Centre aims to train a new generation of interdisciplinary thinking scientists capable of meeting future challenges in the life sciences in Germany and Europe.

Further information for the press:

PD Dr. Beate Winner
Tel.: 09131/85-39301
beate.winner@med.uni-erlangen.de

Prof. Dr. Robert Slany
Tel.: 09131/85-28527
rslany@biologie.uni-erlangen.de

uni | media service | research No. 19/2012 on 16.5.2012

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