How might we further improve deep brain stimulation and its use in the treatment of neurological disorders? And how does the nervous system regulate both protective and chronic immune responses? These questions are at the heart of investigations by two research teams headed by Dr. Andreas Horn and Dr. Christoph Klose at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), these two independent Emmy Noether Junior Research Groups are set to receive more than €1.7 million for a period of three years, with potential for extension.
The Emmy Noether Programme aims to support early- career researchers in gaining the experience needed to satisfy university prerequisites for professorship. By funding Dr. Horn and Dr. Klose, the DFG is choosing to support two exceptionally gifted young researchers at the start of their careers.
Dr. Andreas Horn’s Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group is to be based in the Movement Disorders and Neuromodulations section of the Department of Neurology. The group’s primary aim is to improve deep brain stimulation (DBS) using modern imagining technologies. DBS is currently being used to treat a wide range of disorders of the nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder and epilepsy. In the process of DBS, electrodes are implanted into a patient’s brain and connected to an impulse generator. This device, similar to a pacemaker, delivers targeted electrical currents to a specific area of the brain. Recent research has indicated that successful treatment is not only a matter of stimulating the right local nerves but is also affected by the way impulses are distributed in global brain networks, thus affecting the entire brain.
“To be specific, we want to use magnetic resonance imaging to further identify and study the best therapeutic target networks that can be modulated in each disorder,” says Dr. Horn, adding: “We want to study the extent to which such targets form parts of larger networks. We’ll also explore ways of identifying therapeutic targets in individual patients, considering such things as each individual patient’s unique brain anatomy. The hope is to use the research to make deep brain stimulation even more effective.” The DFG has awarded funds of more than €700,000 to Dr. Horn and his junior research group. These funds are to be used over a period of three years. After successful evaluation and an interim report on their progress, the funding may be extended for another three years and €600,000.
Dr. Klose’s Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group is to be based in the Institute of Mircobiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology. Dr. Klose and his team will focus on ways in which processes that are mediated by the nervous system also regulate the immune system and how this affects inflammatory processes. The work will center on regulation of so-called Type 2 immune reactions, which are responsible for regulating a range of bodily processes. Type 2 immune responses are responsible for regulating allergies, mediating the body’s immune response against parasites, regulating processes of skin lacerations and they also affect adipose tissue metabolism.
“We want to better understand the effects neural stimuli such as stress have on Type 2 immune responses,” explains Dr. Klose. “We hope our findings will lead to new forms of allergy treatment.” Dr. Klose’s research group will receive more than €1 million in DFG funding over the next three years. Upon successful evaluation of the group’s interim report, an additional €500,000 may be awarded and paid over the course of an additional two years.
The Emmy Noether Program of the DFG The Emmy Noether Programme gives exceptionally qualified early-career researchers the chance to qualify for the post of professor at a university by leading an independent junior research group. This is intended to give outstanding young scientists the opportunity to satisfy the prerequisites for appointment as a university professor without having to complete the usual habilitation process. The program, which is open to researchers from any scientific discipline, is generally aimed at candidates with up to four years of postdoctoral experience. The first round of funding is awarded for three years, with the chance to extend the funding for another three years upon successful completion and evaluation of an interim report.
Andreas Horn is member of the ECN.