With the support of the award Lie will extend his group of young scientists at the GSF Institute of Development Genetics, which was established in spring 2005. Since 1999 he has been working on the mechanisms of hippocampal neurogenesis, i.e., the formation of new nerve cells in the adult hippocampus. This brain region plays a central role in learning and memory processes.
“In the future my EURYI group will work on the identification of the signals regulating the quiescent state of stem cells,” Dieter Chichung Lie emphasizes. “To this end, we will apply state of the art techniques in genetics, molecular biology and cell biology.” The researchers envision that these studies will contribute to the development of new strategies for the treatment of learning and memory disorders and that these studies will provide new insights into the development of brain tumours.
Background: in the adult brain the majority of nerve cells are generated from neural stem cells during embryonal development or shortly after birth. The hippocampus is one of two specialised brain regions in which neurogenesis continues throughout adulthood. Recent results indicate that neurogenesis contributes to the function of the hippocampus: in aging animals the rate of hippocampal neurogenesis continuously decreases and is paralleled by learning and memory deficits.
The formation of new nerve cells from stem cells in the adult hippocampus is subject to tight control: insufficient formation of new nerve cells might lead to malfunction of the hippocampus. In contrast, excessive formation of new cells may result in the exhaustion of the stem cell pool, which would lead to early impairment of hippocampal function. Apart from that, uncontrolled formation of new cells would pose the risk of tumour formation.
The adult brain has developed a protective strategy: the majority of adult neural stem cells are in a quiescent state, i.e., non-proliferative. They have to be activated from the quiescent state, in order to divide and form new nerve cells in the hippocampus.
Since 2004 the European Science Foundation has been awarding the EURYI Award, which provides outstanding young scientists from all disciplines with the financial means and human resources to establish their research groups in Europe. The objective of the EURYI Awards is to recruit and keep talented young scientists for research in Europe. To this end the scientists are provided with funding that allows them to conduct research on an internationally competitive level. Apart from scientific excellence, the innovation content of the research projects is a major selection criteria.
Michael van den Heuvel | alfa
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