Genetics of the brain

Background
The increasing prevalence for neurodegenerative disease in our aging population poses a growing problem for healthcare. It is therefore not surprising that the development of treatments for these chronic and irreversible brain disorders is rated as high priority in the recent WHO report on ‘Priority Medicines’.

In dementia, years of slowly progressing neuro-degeneration, including inherent cognitive decline, set the stage for devastating clinical phases.

Most neurodegenerative diseases have in common that neurons and synaptic contacts atrophy, gradually loose their function and are then lost. With this in mind, future treatments have to be aimed at boosting the survival and repair potential of affected neurons during the very early clinical phases of these diseases.

Traditionally, emphasis has been given to treatments that alleviate the symptoms of these disorders. Long-term benefits of these treatments are, however, disappointing. In the vast majority of patients with dementia, single mutations are not sufficient to explain the disease pathology, but a combination of genetic mutations interacting with environmental factors increase the risk for developing disease.

Key objective
Therefore the key objective of this research team is to uncover the complex etiology of pathological brain dysfunction, for dementia and milder age related cognitive decline, by focusing on genetic mechanisms.

People
Team 1.1 Student: Ashutosh Dhingra / Supervisor: Prof. Peter Heutink
Team 1.2.Student: Dave Tang / Supervisor: Dr. Piero Carninci
Team 1.3 Student: Cornelis Blauwendraat / Supervisor: Dr. Patrizia Rizzu