The functional role of glial cells is not as obvious: while they were first described as cells providing only structural support to neurons, a series of more recent studies on glial cell function has attracted the attention of the neuroscience community. It has become evident that glial cells are essential for the proper functioning of the brain.
Our goal is to understand the role of glial cells in physiology and pathology. We analyze how glial cells communicate among each other and with neurons. We determine how astrocytes and oligodendrocytes are connected via gap junctions and how the panglial network influences neuronal function.
We study the expression of transmitter receptors in microglial cells and how activation of these receptors influences microglial functions. Within the context of pathology we are currently studying the importance of microglial cells in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Another line of research addresses the question how microglia interact with glioma cells. We aim to understand this interaction on a molecular level for the purpose of identifying therapeutic targets.
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Is microglial cell population as homogeneous as we thought? My project is aimed to study molecular and morphological heterogeneity of microglia in normal brain and retina. We will apply Drop-seq and Patch-seq for the single cell RNA sequencing as well as microscopy analysis and functional assays to answer our questions.
My project focuses on investigating the unconventional role of the let-7 microRNA family as activators of microglia functions via the Toll-like Receptor (TLR) pathway. In addition, I am studying their impact on the tumor growth mechanism in murine glioma. Methods involved in this project are cell biology, molecular biology and immunoistochemistry.
We have recently found a subpopulation of microglia expressing functional muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, that is largely expanded after stroke and correlates with an increased expression of the muscarinic 3 receptor (M3R). We now investigate the role of the M3R in stroke outcome and test it as potential therapeutic target, using a conditional mouse model in which M3R could be depleted in microglia and in peripheral monocytes. Methods involved in this research are behavioral experiments, magnetic resonance imaging, immunohistochemistry and basic molecular biology techniques.
Microglia are recently appreciated as novel therapeutic targets in mental disorders, my research aims to understand the role of microglia in Autism Spectrum disorder using the Neuroligin 4-KO mouse model. Moreover, we focus on molecular and functional differences between male and female microglia. Methods involved in these projects are molecular biology, immunohistochemistry and behavior.
My research aims to provide a detailed description of the proteomic landscape of glioma-associated microglia and macrophages based on two distinct mouse glioma models. In addition, I am investigating the role of the extracellular matrix protein Tenascin C in microglia physiology. Applied methods range from molecular biology and immunohistochemistry to proteomics in close collaboration with the institutional core facility.
The Role of microglia in glioma interaction. Specifically, my project aims to elucidate the potential synergistic or antagonistic effects of Toll like receptors on glioblastoma progression. Furthermore, I will investigate the potential role of PD-1/PD-L1 on glioblastoma progression. Methods involved in this research are common molecular biological technique like qPCR, Western Blot, imunnohistochemistry as well as tumor organic slice culture and tumor inoculation model.
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common genetic disorder characterized by the development of nervous system tumors (gliomas) and neurodevelopmental abnormalities (autism). Studies in mice have indicated that abnormal microglia function might be responsible for some of the brain abnormalities observed in this condition. My research aims to characterize the effect of NF1 gene mutations on human and mouse microglia biology using a combination of genetically-engineered mice and human induced pluripotent stem cells.
Microglia clearly have the capacity to sense neuronal activity and may in turn affect neuronal networks. Since many microglial functions are known to be linked to intracellular Ca2+-/ cAMP-signaling, my research aims to investigate whether and how these two major second messenger pathways are involved in the microglia-neuron interaction by microglial calcium imaging and field potential recordings in different brain regions on acute mouse brain slices.
Nirmeen El Madany
It becomes more and more clear that microglia play a role in the progression of brain diseases. VGF is a protein that is upregulated in Alzheimer’s disease and generated by glioblastoma cells, and it was previously shown to impact microglial functions. My research aims to figure out the interplay between VGF and microglia to evaluate if and how targeting VGF signaling in microglia could be used as a novel therapeutic strategy in glioma and Alzheimer’s disease.
Networks of macroglial cells in the white matter are a necessity for proper brain function. My research aims to elucidate the biophysical and biochemical properties of glial networks formed by gap junctions. Methods involved in this research are basic electrophysiology like patch-clamp and field potential recordings as well as imunnohistochemistry.
Microglia monitor the brain parenchyma by using their ramified processes to eliminate harmful exogenous and endogenous waste, pathogens or cell debris through the process of phagocytosis. My research investigates the state of microglial phagocytosis and its linked signalling pathways in both the diseased neurodegenerative as well as healthy developing brain. My employed methods include immunohistochemistry, neuronal tracing, confocal microscopy and 3D reconstruction.
Ibrahim Efecan Efe
Pharmacological intervention in glioma remains unsatisfactory. My aim is to investigate chemotherapeutic agents for their capacity to interfere in microglia-glioma crosstalk and their feasibility for targeted nanoparticle drug delivery to the brain. Through PCR, western blotting, organotypic brain slices and immunohistochemistry, I further explore potential target genes that may play a major role in the tumor metastasis- and invasion-promoting activity of microglia.
My research is about investigating new therapeutic approaches for Glioblastoma, the most common and malignant primary adult brain tumor with a median survival of under 2 years. As not only tumor cells, but also the microenvironment contributes significantly to the devastating prognosis, my research focusses on glioma- microglia- crosstalk. More specifically, we elaborate importance of a large glycoprotein in this context with various methods including organotypic brain slices, Western Blots and immunohistochemistry.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive cancer in the brain and associated with poor survival and limited range of treatment. Previous research identified microglia, the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system, as contributors to tumor growth and invasion. My research aims to characterize through basic molecular biology and immunohistochemistry this glioma-microglia crosstalk as potential target for future treatment.