Neurobiology

Neurobiology, or also labelled as neuroscience, refers to the study of the nervous system. The application of nanotechnology in cell biology and physiology enables targeted interactions at a fundamental molecular level. In neuroscience, this entails specific interactions with neurons and glial cells.

Some example of nanotechnology applications in neurobiology are, advanced molecular imaging, material and hybrid molecular used in neural regeneration, the interactions with neural cell and neuro protection among others.

  • A closer look at brain organoid development

    Cerebral organoid flowchart.

    Heidelberg, 10 March 2017 - How close to reality are brain organoids, and which molecular mechanisms underlie the remarkable self-organizing capacities of tissues? Researchers already have succeeded in growing so-called “cerebral organoids” in a dish - clusters of cells that self-organize into small brain-like structures. Juergen Knoblich and colleagues have now further characterized these organoids and publish their results today in The EMBO Journal. They demonstrate that, like in the human brain, so-called forebrain organizing centers orchestrate developmental processes in the organoid, and that organoids recapitulate the timing of neuronal differentiation events found in human brains.

  • A docking site per calcium channel cluster

    Docking site. (c) by Walter Kaufmann and Ryuichi Shigemoto

    In our brain, information is passed from one neuron to the next at a structure called synapse. At a chemical synapse, a chemical is released from the signal-sending neuron or presynaptic neuron. This neurotransmitter then crosses the synaptic cleft to bind to receptors in the target neuron or postsynaptic neuron. An extensive molecular machinery is at work: for example, vesicles filled with neurotransmitter dock at “docking sites” in the pre-synaptic active zone before they fuse and release the neurotransmitter into the synapse.

  • Blattläuse als Bio-Sensoren

    Haben Pflanzen eine Art Nervensystem? Das ist nicht leicht herauszufinden, weil es keine guten Messmethoden gibt. Würzburger Pflanzenforscher nahmen dafür Blattläuse – und entdeckten, dass Pflanzen auf verschiedene Schädigungen jeweils anders reagieren.

  • Building better brains: A bioengineered upgrade for organoids

    Bioengineered organoids or so called enCORs are supported by a floating scaffold of PLGA-fiber microfilaments.

    Scientists for the first time combine organoids with bioengineering. Using small microfilaments, they show improved tissue architecture that mimics human brain development more accurately and allows more targeted studies of brain development and its malfunctions, as reported in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology. A few years ago, Jürgen Knoblich and his team at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) have pioneered brain organoid technology. They developed a method for cultivating three-dimensional brain-like structures, so called cerebral organoids, in a dish. This discovery has tremendous potential as it could revolutionize drug discovery and disease research.

  • Cancer Research - How Cells Die by Ferroptosis

    A Fibroblast Undergoing Ferroptosis. Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    Ferroptosis is a recently discovered form of cell death, which is still only partially understood. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have now identified an enzyme that plays a key role in generating the signal that initiates cell death. Their findings, published in two articles in the journal ‘Nature Chemical Biology’, could now give new impetus to research into the fields of cancer, neurodegeneration and other degenerative diseases. The term ferroptosis was first coined in 2012. It is derived from the Greek word ptosis, meaning “a fall”, and ferrum, the Latin word for iron, and describes a form of regulated necrotic cell death in which iron appears to play an important role.

  • Connecting brain regions in a dish – A new organoid technology to detect malfunctions in the brain

    The novel organoid “fusion” technique is a new method to combine different brain tissues in a dish to observe complex interactions, such as cell migration and axon growth, between different developing brain regions.  Copyright: (c)IMBA

    Scientists at IMBA (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology) describe novel organoid technology combining various brain regions for investigation of epilepsy, and other neurological diseases, as reported in the current issue of Nature Methods. In 2013 researchers led by IMBA scientist Jürgen Knoblich flabbergasted the scientific community. Starting from human stem cells, researchers in his lab managed to grow living three dimensional models of basic units of human brain in a dish. These so called cerebral organoids present an unprecedented 3D cell culture model of human brain development, and have a tremendous potential for medical applications. Thanks to this discovery scientists can examine how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they are affected by different drug compounds or genetic modifications.

  • Europe wide cooperation on spinal cord injury research receives 1.34 Million Euros grant

    Dr. Michell M. Reimer © CRTD

    Support for translational research: Europe wide cooperation on spinal cord injury research receives 1.34 Million Euros grant.
    Six European research teams including Dr. Michell Reimer and his team at the DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) - Cluster of Excellence at the TU Dresden, received a 1.34 Million Euros ERA NET NEURON Grant for their research on spinal cord injury funded by the European Commission. The funding will start in 2017. Dresden. Spinal cord injury results from trauma to the vertebral column, usually caused by accidents during sport activities or driving. Injury of the spinal cord is a devastating condition for the individuals who suffer not only from paralysis but also chronic pain and impairment of bodily functions such as bowel and bladder control.

  • Grenzen der optischen Mikroskopie überwinden

    Darstellung von gestreutem Licht. Copyright: Benjamin Judkewitz, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

    ERC Starting Grant für interdisziplinäres Charité-Labor. Die Technik der optischen Mikroskopie hat wesentlich zur Begründung der Neurowissenschaften beigetragen. Aus der Forschung ist sie kaum wegzudenken. Allerdings: Bis heute bleibt die mikroskopische Bildgebung in lebenden Organismen auf Tiefen von weniger als einem Millimeter begrenzt. Der Grund dafür ist die Lichtstreuung. Diese Grenze aufzuheben und lebendes Gewebe in tieferen Schichten, beispielsweise in der Hirnrinde, sichtbar zu machen, das hat sich die Forschergruppe um Prof. Dr. Benjamin Judkewitz vorgenommen. In den kommenden fünf Jahren stehen dem Labor nun 1,49 Millionen Euro des Europäischen Forschungsrates (ERC) zur Verfügung.

  • How much information can we get from a spike?

    In many situations it is sufficient to consider the space of pairwise spike correlations (blue) to understand neural information, without the need to evaluate all possible spike combinations (gray). Tatjana Tchumatchenko / Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

    Neurons communicate via spikes but how they use those short pulses to code information is still an open question. Recent work at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Theory of Neural Dynamics Group) reveals that by determining temporal pairwise correlations one can get closer to answering this question.

    A key to understanding how the brain works is revealing the set of rules neurons use to communicate information between one another. The main means of neural communication are spikes, which are brief electrical pulses send out at some specific times.

  • Intelligent, Clever, and with Moral Behavior - University of Freiburg opened new robotics center

    The Integrated Robotics Center offers up to 65 workspaces in its offices and laboratories. Photo: Ingeborg Lehmann

    The University of Freiburg has now opened a new robotics center as part of its Faculty of Engineering. Developing intelligent robots that can identify tasks independently, learn from humans and their surroundings, and behave morally: With this goal in mind, the University of Freiburg opened the Integrated Robotics Center as part of its Faculty of Engineering on February 17, 2017. Researchers from the fields of medicine, philosophy, biology, computer science, microsystems engineering, and law will now be working together in the new center. “The research we are doing in this new building demonstrates the unique strength of our University: Bringing together experts from different disciplines to find solutions for the complex challenges of the future,” said Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer.

  • Locomotion Control with Photopigments

    Mechanoreceptors of the drosophila larva. Photo: University of Göttingen

     

    (pug) Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an additional function: They not only exist in eyes, but also in mechanoreceptors along the body, where they control body movements. The results were published in Neuron. Coordinated locomotion requires mechanoreceptors that inform animals about their body movements. By analyzing locomotion in Drosophila fruit fly larvae, the scientists found that this locomotion control requires visual opsins, the visual photopigment proteins.

  • LZH initiates an innovations network on optogenetics

    Electrophysiological investigation of an optogenetically altered neuron cell line. Photo: LZH

    Within the framework of the BMBF initiative “Innovation forums for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)”, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) is striving to set up a nationwide network on optogenetics. This network will pool the competencies of the relevant research fields in order to unlock the potential of light-controllable biomolecules in combination with up-to-date light technology. Especially in the area of biomedical sciences, there are promising approaches for new treatment methods, for example for neurological diseases.

  • Mini brains from the petri dish

    When pipetting: Associate professor Dr. Philipp Koch, Dr. Julia Ladewig and Vira Iefremova. (c) Photo: Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

    A new method could push research into developmental brain disorders an important step forward. This is shown by a recent study at the University of Bonn in which the researchers investigated the development of a rare congenital brain defect. To do so, they converted skin cells from patients into so called induced pluripotent stem cells. From these ‘jack-of-all-trades’ cells, they generated brain organoids – small three-dimensional tissues which resemble the structure and organization of the developing human brain. The work has now been published in the journal Cell Reports.

  • Molecule flash mob

    High PIP2 concentrations on the cell membrane (left) prohibit SERT oligomerisation or dissociation so the level of oligomerisation is fixed. The PIP2 concentration in the endoplasmic reticulum is very low (right). The SERT oligomerisation therefore strives for equilibrium. TU Wien

    Neurotransmitter transporters are some of the most popular transport proteins in research as they play a major role in the processing of signals in the brain. A joint study by TU Wien and the Medical University of Vienna has now successfully demonstrated for the first time the structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters

  • Motor Neurons Tell Blood Vessels Where To Go

    Confocal microscopy image showing a spinal cord section of a mouse embryo (embryonic day 11.5). The blood vessels (red) grow around the motor neurons (green). Patricia Himmels und Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar

    Heidelberg Neuroscientists have identified a critical regulator for blood vessel growth in the developing embryonic spinal cord. The research group under the direction of Dr Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar of the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center discovered that special nerve cells known as motor neurons control this process. This new insight into the nature of the interrelationship between the nervous system and the vascular system will help in understanding diseases of the central nervous system. These findings were published in the journal "Nature Communications".

  • Multiple Sklerose: Neu entdeckter Signalmechanismus macht T-Zellen pathogen

    Die dendritische Zelle und die T-Zelle bei der Clusterbildung (rechts im Bild); Prof. Dr. Thomas Korn (Technische Universität München)

    Folgenschwere Instruktionen: T-Zellen sind ein wichtiger Teil des Immunsystems. Sie können aber nicht nur Krankheitserreger ausschalten, sondern auch selbst zu einer Gefahr werden. Forscherinnen und Forscher der Technischen Universität München (TUM) und der Universitätsmedizin Mainz haben herausgefunden, wann bestimmte T-Zellen zu krankheitserregenden T-Zellen werden, die mit Multipler Sklerose in Verbindung gebracht werden. Die Ergebnisse erklären, warum bestimmte Behandlungsansätze nicht zuverlässig wirken. Sie sind in der aktuellen Ausgabe von „nature immunology“ veröffentlicht.

  • Münster researchers make ongoing inflammation in the human brain visible

    Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have visualized inflammation in the brain of mice (l.) and of MS patients (r.). To do so, they labelled specific enzymes (MMPs). Reprinted with permission from Gerwien and Hermann et al., Sci. Transl. Med. 8, 364ra152 (2016) 9 November 2016

    For the first time, Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence (CiM) at Münster University have been able to image ongoing inflammation in the brain of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. The ultimate aim in biomedical research is the transfer of results from experiments carried out in animals to patients. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence (CiM) at the University of Münster have succeeded in doing so. For the first time, they have been able to image ongoing inflammation in the brain of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). This involved specialists from different disciplines working together in a unique way over several years, combining immunology, neurology and imaging technologies ranging from microscopy to whole-body imaging.

  • Nanodiamonds in the Brain

    Albumin-coated nano-diamonds can cross the blood-brain barrier and be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in the brain.

    The recording of images of the human brain and its therapy in neurodegenerative diseases is still a major challenge in current medical research. The so-called blood-brain barrier, a kind of filter system of the body between the blood system and the central nervous system, constrains the supply of drugs or contrast media that would allow therapy and image acquisition. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have now produced tiny diamonds, so-called "nanodiamonds", which could serve as a platform for both the therapy and diagnosis of brain diseases.

  • New Regulator of Immune Reaction Discovered

    Raster electron microscope image of human T lymphocytes. Andrea Hellwig (neurobiology)

    Calcium signal in cell nucleus regulates not only many brain functions but also defence reactions of the immune system. Cells of the immune system can distinguish between protein molecules that are "self" and "non-self". For example, if we are exposed to pathogens such as bacteria or viruses that carry foreign molecules on their surface, the body reacts with an immune response. In contrast, cells are "tolerant" of the body's own molecules. This state of unresponsiveness, or anergy, is regulated by a cellular signal, a calcium-controlled switch that was known to control also many brain functions.

  • New risk factors for anxiety disorders

    Activation of the brain's fear network, visualized using functional magnetic resonance imaging. (picture: Dr. Tina Lonsdorf, Systems Neuroscience UKE Hamburg)

    Several newly discovered variants of a gene increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. A research team aims to derive new therapies from this finding which are better tailored to the individual patients.

    Mental, social and inherited factors all play a role in anxiety disorders. In the journal "Molecular Psychiatry", a research team from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, describes a hitherto unknown genetic pathway for developing such diseases: They pinpointed at least four variants of the GLRB gene (glycine receptor B) as risk factors for anxiety and panic disorders. More than 5000 voluntary participants and 500 patients afflicted by panic disorder took part in the study that delivered these results.