Each year, the European Research Council awards Proof of Concept grants to ERC grant holders who wish to take their ERC research one step further towards application. This year, no less than three VIB principal investigators have received an ERC PoC grant: Prof. Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology), Prof. Patrik Verstreken, and Prof. Stein Aerts (both from the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain and Disease Research).
Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropic endeavor led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his partner Priscilla Chan, announced the launch of its Neurodegeneration Challenge Network. This new network brings together experimental scientists from diverse biomedical research fields, as well as computational biologists and physicians, to understand the underlying causes of neurodegenerative disorders.
Researchers from the Verstreken lab (VIB-KU Leuven) have identified a completely novel function for Hsp90, one of the most common and most studied proteins in our body. In addition to its well-known role as a protein chaperone, Hsp90 stimulates exosome release. These findings shed new light on treatment strategies for both cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
A team of researchers at VIB and KU Leuven has uncovered why people with a hereditary form of Parkinson’s disease suffer from sleep disturbances. The molecular mechanisms uncovered in fruit flies and human stem cells also point to candidate targets for the development of new treatments.
EMBO elected 62 outstanding life scientists to its membership, joining a group of more than 1800 of the best researchers in Europe and around the world.
Tau proteins clump together to form neuronal tangles, found in patient brains of more than twenty different neurodegenerative diseases, including various forms of dementia. Last year, researchers at VIB and KU Leuven uncovered that Tau disturbs neuronal communication when it is mislocalized to presynaptic terminals during early disease stages. In a new study, the researchers report that a protein called Synaptogyrin-3 is mediating these effects and could be a new potential target for therapeutic development.
Tau proteins are involved in more than twenty neurodegenerative diseases, including various forms of dementia. These proteins clump together in patients’ brains to form neuronal tangles: protein aggregation that eventually coincides with the death of brain cells. Prof. Patrik Verstreken’s research team (VIB-KU Leuven) has now discovered how tau disrupts the functioning of nerve cells, even before it starts forming tangles. They immediately suggest a way to intervene in this process.
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of James Parkinson’s description of the disease that now bears his name and that affects an estimated 5 million people worldwide. Working as a medical surgeon in London, James Parkinson was the first to connect the dots when confronted with a handful of patients with similar involuntary tremors and symptoms of muscle weakness. In 1817, he published his findings in his seminal ‘Essay on shaking palsy’.
Roeland Vanhauwaert and Dr. Sandra-Fausia Soukup and colleagues from the Patrik Verstreken Lab (VIB-KU Leuven) modelled a new Parkinson mutation in fruit flies and in differentiated iPS cells from different patients. This was realized by a mutation in the ‘synaptojanin gene’. The researchers were able to show that this gene is only active at the synapse.
Patrik Verstreken (VIB-KU Leuven) specializes in brain research, with a particular focus on synapses. In various brain disorders, these junctions between nerve cells play a pivotal role. With an impressive series of leading papers published in the past few months, Patrik illustrates how focused and continued basic research can lead to breakthroughs applicable to a wide range of neurological diseases, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.