Diagnosed by the German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of dementia in the ageing population (Korolev et al., 2014). Recently declared as the sixth major cause of death in the world; patients affected with AD suffer a gradual decline of cognitive abilities and memory functions till the disease renders them incapable of performing daily activities. Some of these traits, which are typical of neurodegenerative diseases are also shared by other forms of dementia.
The brain is the most complex organ in the body, controlling our highest functions, as well as regulating myriad processes which incorporate the entire physiological system. There is a significant risk that a novel therapeutic agent might impact brain structure and function, resulting in serious pathologies and even death. Therefore, CNS testing forms part of the ‘core battery’ of safety pharmacology studies.
Advances in cell reprogramming technology has catapulted the field of stem cell biology and its applications in disease research and therapeutic development, to where it is today. The initial discovery that adult somatic cells could be reprogrammed into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) (Takahashi et al. 2007; Scudellari 2016) has made pluripotent stem cell biology a flourishing research area. Cell reprogramming is not only enabling a better understanding of human disease pathways, but is improving the reliability of in vitro drug screening to boost the translatability of disease research into therapies that can directly help patients.
The body’s immune system is our first line of defence against foreign substances, protecting us against infection and disease. It consists of a complex network of organs and cells that work to recognise and destroy these harmful substances, containing them at the site of infection. Macrophages play a crucial role in this; engulfing and destroying anything dangerous via phagocytosis.
The human immune response consists of a complex network of cells working together to identify and destroy foreign substances in the body. Two key players in this response mechanism are: 1) circulating peripheral blood monocytes, the cells first to the site of interest; and 2) macrophages, which arise at the point of injury or infection through differentiation of these monocytes into tissue-specific macrophages. Macrophages are responsible for destroying the foreign body before further infection occurs.
Millions of people around the world suffer from debilitating pain. However, with impressive advances being made in pain research and drug discovery efforts, researchers are continuing to delve deeper into the molecular pathways underpinning pain, to ultimately improve both the screening of drug candidates and the quality of life for people across the world.
Innovations in biotechnology and advances in stem cell biology are currently revolutionizing biomedical research and drug discovery. One exciting breakthrough has been the ability to produce sensory neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and culture them in vitro on multi-electrode array (MEA) systems, to advance pain research and the discovery of effective pain therapies.
Axol Bioscience Travel Grant recipient, Helen Rowland, attended the ISSCR 2017, which took place in Boston, USA. Helen is a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester, UK. She shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.
Axol Bioscience Travel Grant recipient, Eseelle Hendow, attended the European Chapter Meeting of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society 2017, which took place in Davos, Switzerland. Eseelle is a cardiovascular researcher at University College London, UK. She shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.
Millions of people around the world suffer from debilitating pain, causing immense suffering and reducing their quality of life. With the economic costs of chronic pain estimated to be up to $635 billion each year in the US alone, it’s crucial for scientists to be able to fully understand the functionality of human sensory neurons and how they respond to potential new drugs. In the race to find effective treatments, scientists commonly study in vitro neuron cultures to characterize the molecular pathways underlying pain, which can help to identify therapeutic targets and quickly screen potential drug candidates.
Age, diabetes and having the two copies of the gene for apolipoprotein E 4 (APOE ε4) are just some of the factors that significantly increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease later on in life. Associate Professor Carmela Matrone’s research group used stem cells generated from Alzheimer’s disease patients with the APOE ε4 gene to show that this genetic risk factor is connected to a deterioration of a relationship between two key proteins, sortilin-related receptor (SORL1) and amyloid precursor protein (APP) 1 .
Axol Bioscience Science Scholarship recipient, Nataly Martynyuk, is a PhD student at the Brain Repair Centre, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, UK. Her research focuses on the actions of alpha-chimaerins in mechanisms relevant to dendritic spine formation and neurodegeneration. Nataly has written a review on astrocytes as part of her scholarship application.
Axol Bioscience travel grant recipient, Marie Franquin attended Gordon Research Conference - Neurobiology of Brain Disorders 2016, which took place in Girona, Spain. Marie is a PhD student at the Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University, Canada. Her research focuses on the role of TNF alpha on synaptic plasticity defects in neurodegenerative diseases. Marie shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.
Axol Bioscience travel grant recipient, Abigail Robertson attended Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology 2016, which took place in Florence, Italy. Abigail is a PhD student at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences , University of Manchester, UK. Her research focuses on targeting the Hippo signalling pathway to enhance the therapeutic potential of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes . Abigail shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.
Our understanding of the central nervous system (CNS) has grown significantly in recent years. The advent of new technologies and products have enabled us to explore not only the molecular mechanisms involved in learning, development, memory formation, electrical conductivity and synaptic function but also the onset and deterioration of these systems in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as psychiatric conditions.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders. The age of onset is typically early with potentially serious neurocognitive residuals apparent in later life. Symptoms can include recurring aggressive electrical activity, seizures, behavioural, neurological and cognitive difficulties, and may result in early death.
“It is truly amazing that a complex organism, formed through an extraordinary intricate process of morphogenesis, should be unable to perform the much simpler task of merely maintaining what already exists.”
For starters, my student Paul and I did some homework on our poster to ensure that it was audience appropriate; with Paul's help I made the message simple and clear enough to allow us to be able to explain the poster to anyone of any age and background. Angela then offered me another layer of challenge on top of the poster - designing a game for my research so that I can explain my work to our visitors at the conference. Once again I was not sure, what kind of game could I make for kids that would make my research fascinating to them? Angela's creative mind really made it easy on the D-day as I arrived with my poster! With her help, we created a little game with glitters and can of water and made a really cool experiment to help people understand the fundamentals about the brain and its barriers.