Research work at the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology is focused on the development of novel stem cell-based therapies for diseases of the central nervous system. Considering the limited regenerative capacity of the brain and spinal cord, we have embarked on exploiting embryonic and adult stem cells as donor sources of neural transplants. Our scientific strategy aims at translating mechanisms of nervous system development to stem cell biology, and thus to recreate specific neuronal and glial cell types in the laboratory dish. Particular emphasis is put on the controlled differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ES cells). These unique cells are characterized by unlimited self-renewal, pluripotency and amenability to gene targeting. Based on animal studies showing functional integration of transplanted ES cell-derived neurons and glia, we have now set out to extend these promising strategies to human ES cells.
Sophisticated tools for genetic engineering are required to harness stem cells for biomedical applications. This topic is covered by the Stem Cell Engineering Unit headed by Dr. Frank Edenhofer (supported by the Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia). Key research topics of this Junior Research Group include protein transduction into stem cells, maintenance of pluripotency and reprogramming.
In 2004, a new Neural Regeneration Unit was established at the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology. This Unit is headed by Prof. Dr. H. Neumann and focuses on the recruitment of adult stem cells into inflammatory and neurodegenerative CNS lesions. Further fields of research include stem cell-mediated gene therapy and the plasticity of mesenchymal stem cells.
The Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology has a strong interest in translational research and interacts closely with the Cellomics Department of the LIFE & BRAIN GmbH.