Successful kick-off for the EU funded collaborative research project \"NeuroGLIA\" at the University of Bonn
On January 25th, the Life & Brain Center in Bonn hosted the official opening ceremony of the international research project "NeuroGLIA".The project has the overall aim to understand the role of astroglia, in both the normal brain and diseased brain, and will receive three million Euro in EU funding. The project coordinator Prof. Dr. Christian Steinhäuser welcomed Dr. Alfredo Cesario, the NeuroGLIA Scientific Officer, and his colleague Anita Kucharska. The two representatives of the European Commission opened the symposium, followed by presentations by the different consortium members from Madrid/Spain, Cardiff/UK, Padua/Italy, Amsterdam/Netherlands, as well as Göttingen, Saarbrücken and Bonn/Germany.
In the coming four years, the group will gain new insights into the function of glia cells in the healthy brain. One thing is clear already: Glia cells, for a long time under estimated as "nerve glue", do not only have mechanical functions but also play an essential role in information processing.
The scientists involved in this project will also investigate how a dysfunction of glia cells contributes to the pathogenesis of neurological disorders, focussing on epilepsy. Some patients, for example, show glia cell abnormalities in the so-called Ammons horn. "Neurons release potassium and glutamate into the intercellular space to communicate", explains Prof. Steinhäuser. "In the healthy brain, these transmitter substances are cleared by certain glia cells, the astrocytes, via a drainage system. If this mechanism does not function properly, the cells become overexcitable." In patients with Ammons horn sclerosis, this may be the main cause for the initiation and spreading of epileptic seizures.
Other disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) may also be caused by glia cell dysfunction.
NeuroGLIA was one of 102 applications submitted to the EU under "Brain and brain-related diseases" in the first HEALTH call of the 7th Framework Programme. The project was recommended for funding having received the maximum amount of points in the evaluation process.
Prof. Dr. Christian Steinhäuser
Institut für Zelluläre Neurowissenschaften, Universität Bonn