Attempts to cure brain-related disorders have proved less successful than therapies for other major conditions such as heart cancer, even though just as many people suffer from them. About 600 million worldwide each year are afflicted by depression alone, more than any other condition except heart disease, and yet of those given existing drugs, only half recover.
Furthermore progress treating depression as well as other major brain disorders has stalled. This stark fact lies behind an ambitious European proposal to revive the field. The proposal, to be presented at EuroBioForum, in Lisbon in December 2007, aims to develop a ground breaking multi-disciplinary research project which would propel Europe to the head of global research into the crucial role of neurotransmitters in brain disorders. Bringing together the relevant specialisms in chemistry, radio-chemistry, in vivo modelling, and above all PET and SPECT scanning, the project would exploit recent advances both in PET (Positron Emission Tomography), and SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography), enabling metabolic activity such as levels of neurotransmitters to be determined with greater accuracy in space and quantity.
The objective is to develop new methods to identify the release of neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline, serotonin, acetylcholine, and endorphins, in the brain and so examine their role in major brain disorders. This in turn will enable more effective therapies to be developed than current drugs, which often fail to work, according to the project's leader David Nutt, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol, UK. Professor Nutt is presenting his vision for this groundbreaking project at the EuroBioForum conference, which is organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) with support from the European Commission.
The programme has great potential for human health given the vast number of people affected, but as Professor Nutt pointed out, the scale of the task is great.
"We don't even know for example whether serotonin levels are high or low in depressed people," said Professor Nutt. This is despite the fact that many current anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac, alter the uptake of serotonin by key receptors in the brain. Professor Nutt's observation shows that there is a lack of knowledge over how existing drugs work, and until greater understanding is reached, it will be very difficult to make further progress.
Until now researchers have been deterred by the sheer extent of the problem in unravelling the complex links between multiple neurotransmitters and a range of conditions. This, said Professor Nutt, is big science on the same level as the Human Genome Project, or splitting the atom. It requires a huge harmonised effort, combining the forces of academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Until now neurological research has tended to be fragmented, with industry more concerned with improving existing therapies and determining correct combinations of drugs and dosage levels. Meanwhile academia has tended to plough too many small furrows, without tackling the big picture.
The EuroBioForum conference will provide the platform for researchers to unite behind a common larger goal. As Professor Nutt commented, "the conference offers a unique opportunity for the academic community, research funding organisations, government, industry and policy making organisations to share ideas and contribute to key policy and funding decisions." He added, "I'm extremely pleased to have been invited to such an important event and delighted that for the first time a brain research programme has been shortlisted under this initiative."
The EuroBioForum conference, held annually and organised by the ESF with support from the EU, is a key event in the European research funding calendar. Its purpose is to provide a platform for representatives from the European scientific community to deliver their vision for grand challenges in the life sciences and so influence future European research funding priorities. The conference offers a unique opportunity for the academic community, research funding agencies, government, industry and policy making organizations, to share ideas and contribute to key funding decisions.
Thomas Lau | alfa
Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Information Technology