Neuroscience Center's two new ERA-NET NEURON projects focus on abnormally small brain and schizophrenia

Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research has funded two projects at Neuroscience Center: Group Leader Takashi Namba’s research and Associate Professor Jaan-Olle Andressoo’s research.

European Research Area Networks (ERA-NETs) are projects initiated by the European Commission in various research fields. Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research (ERA-NET NEURON) supports basic, clinical, and translational research in the field of research into the brain and its diseases.

ERA-NET NEURON has granted funding for two Neuroscience Center’s project that start in the beginning of 2022.

New insights into the causes of microcephaly – Takashi Namba

MEPIcephaly: Metabolic and epigenetic interplay in neural progenitor cells: investigating neurodevelopmental disorders associated with impaired neural progenitor cell expansion

Group Leader Takashi Namba (Neuroscience Center / HiLIFE, Helsinki Institute of Life Science) is coordinating a project that focuses on microcephaly, abnormally small brain. The project starts in January and lasts for 3 years. The total funding for Namba’s research group is €300,000. The consortium has partners in Belgium, Germany and France.

The project will provide new insights into the causes of microcephaly, which is key for the development of improved diagnostic tools, treatment options and preventive care.

“This project aims to further explore the progenitor cell metabolism in normal and diseased conditions, seeking to better understand the causal relationship between abnormal neural progenitor cell metabolism and microcephaly. This project will investigate important metabolic pathways and their link with epigenetics – a layer of information on top of our genome that affects which genes are expressed by a given cell type. We will study how the metabolic-epigenetic interplay regulates gene expression during neural progenitor cell expansion. Finally, we aim to identify novel causative metabolic genes of microcephaly,” Namba explains.

New treatment for schizophrenia? Jaan-Olle Andressoo

Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF) modulating schizophrenia: a promising target for innovative treatment

Associate Professor Jaan-Olle Andressoo (Faculty of Medicine and Neuroscience Center / HiLIFE, Helsinki Institute of Life Science) is coordinating a consortium that will start a project in March to research schizophrenia and new treatment for the disease. His research team will work for 3 years and has €300,000 funding for the project. The consortium has members in Germany and Estonia.

Andressoo’s team has recently made substantially progress by studying how a protein called glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) can influence schizophrenia.

“By making a new observation in schizophrenia patients, our team was able to create an animal model of schizophrenia, which in turn allowed identification of a drug which can reverse disease in animal model. This drug is already in clinical use but it is used for different purpose. Importantly, compared to the development of new drugs, reprofiling of an existing drug for treating other disease is relatively easy, fast and cost-effective. However, to proceed to clinical trials, better patient characterization, stratification and understanding on the drug action is required. Our consortium experts work together for building information needed for designing clinical trials in the near future,” Andressoo says.