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
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy