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German Research Foundation funds new Collaborative Research Center at the JGU Medical Center

Focus on basic research in neurosciences receives funding of approximately EUR 9.3 million

On January 1, 2013, the German Research Foundation (DFG) will establish a new Collaborative Research Center (CRC) at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The research team of scientists from Mainz and Frankfurt, coordinated by Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch, Director of the Institute of Microscopic Anatomy and Neurobiology at the Mainz University Medical Center, has been awarded funding of approximately EUR 9.3 million for an initial period of four years.

The purpose of the CRC is to study the molecular and cellular interactions that enable the brain to maintain a balanced functional state in the form of network homeostasis. By gaining a more in-depth understanding of these mechanisms, the scientists involved also hope to provide new insights into disease processes in the brain, so that it becomes possible in the long term to develop new treatment options.

The main aim of CRC 1080 "Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Neuronal Homeostasis" is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of network homeostasis in detail. If successful, it should provide the ideal requirements for the development of medications to treat cerebral diseases in humans. Specifically, Nitsch's team of researchers intends to study various classes of molecules, such as those relevant to the control of cell-to-cell interactions and signaling processes. According to Nitsch, insight in this area is the key to understanding the importance of homeostatic mechanisms in the body, in particular in relation to disorders of the human nervous system.

Doris Ahnen, Rhineland-Palatinate’s Minister of Science and Chairperson of the Advisory Council of the Mainz University Medical Center, praised Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch's team: "The success of the bid for a DFG Collaborative Research Center again demonstrates the excellent potential for innovative research at the University Medical Center and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. In January 2012, the CI3 –Cluster for Individualized Immune Intervention, also coordinated from Mainz, did well in the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition organized by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The purpose of the CI3 project is to develop customized diagnostic instruments and treatments. In early July 2012, a new transregional DFG Collaborative Research Center for the study of the causes of multiple sclerosis was launched under the coordination of Professor Dr. Frauke Zipp. And just a few days ago, the European Research Council awarded Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch an ERC Advanced Grant worth EUR 2.5 million for planned future research projects." This current success confirms that "our cutting-edge research at Mainz University Medical Center is among the best in Germany" and can compete with others at the top international level.

"The approval of this new CRC confirms once again that it was the right decision to establish the Research Unit Translational Neurosciences at the Mainz University Medical Center. The CRC is also the outcome of a policy of targeted funding in the neurosciences over an extended period of time. It is based on excellent existing structures that were developed with the help of major participation on the part of scientists at the University Medical Center. The appointment of Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch has successfully put us on a course to ensure that our profile building is visible not only within the university but also outside and indeed throughout Germany as a whole," said Professor Dr. Dr. Reinhard Urban, Chief Scientific Officer of the Mainz University Medical Center. In 2009, Nitsch moved to Mainz from the Charité University Hospital in Berlin.

JGU's university administration also congratulates the University Medical Center and especially Professor Dr. Robert Nitsch on the formation of the new Collaborative Research Center. "This shows once again that the strategy of establishing core research areas at JGU was correct and is now bearing fruit," said Professor Dr. Georg Krausch, President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "Our next task is to continue along this path and further develop our position. As one of the largest comprehensive universities in Germany, we have the capacity to focus our broad-based teaching and research spectrum on profile building in outstanding areas."

"The enormous potential of the new CRC 1080 lies in the fact that we have a realistic chance of making a significant contribution to decoding network homeostasis," explained Nitsch. Network homeostasis is the brain's ability to stabilize the balance between the inhibition and excitation of nerve cells, for example, despite the constant processing of environmental information. "We aim to study the control mechanisms that regulate cell formation, the synthesis and stabilization of cellular synapses, protein metabolism in cells, and the exchange of signals between cerebral cells during development and in adults," stated Nitsch, who is also the Coordinator of the Research Unit Translational Neurosciences at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

This DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center also represents a further success for the Rhine-Main Neuroscience Network (rmn²), a project involving the Frankfurt-based Max Planck Institutes of Biophysics and for Brain Research and Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz, in addition to Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Goethe University Frankfurt.

Petra Giegerich | idw
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