Professor Tarja Malm from A. I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland has been granted the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for research focusing on the role of brain microglia cells in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The funding amounts to two million euros for a period of five years. The ERC grants are among the most esteemed and competitive European grants. In addition to a high scientific standard, applicants need to display perspectives that reshape our scientific understanding. Malm’s funding is the first ever ERC Consolidator Grant granted by the ERC Neuroscience panel to a Finnish researcher.
The molecular mechanisms leading to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are poorly understood. This is due to the lack of human tissue samples for research representing early changes of AD pathology. The accumulating pathology, including beta-amyloid and tau proteins, are manifested by concomitant neuroinflammatory reactions geared by malfunctional microglia. Microglia in the human and mouse AD brain exist in various subpopulations from which specific, disease-associated microglia are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of AD. However, there is no evidence on whether and how these specific microglial subpopulations actually impair neuronal functions in human AD brain.
The HUMANE project led by Malm will assess neuron-glia network activities and functions indicative of early AD pathology in humans. These events contribute to a detectable vesicle-based biomarker profile in cerebrospinal fluid and blood prior to the clinical disease. The researchers will utilise brain biopsies obtained from normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) patients during the shunt surgery. Since many of these patients manifest early AD-related pathology, these biopsies offer a unique window to the brain to evaluate cellular and molecular events occurring during early AD.
A series of state-of-the-art techniques will be combined to answer how and which glial cell states are associated with altered neuronal network activities at subcellular and spatial resolution in the human brain impacted by early AD-related pathology. Novel methodologies, knowhow and access to unique brain samples enable Malm’s research group to form a holistic view on how early AD pathology impacts cellular functions at multiple levels. This will pinpoint novel molecular targets for further validation and new fluid biomarkers.
Malm’s research group is a member of the multidisciplinary Neuroscience Research Community (NEURO RC) at the University of Eastern Finland. NEURO RC aims to understand the disease-specific and common molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy and to identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic approaches for their prevention and cure. Comprising 17 research groups, NEURO RC integrates biological neurosciences with data sciences, neuro-innovations, and neuro-ethics.
For further information, please contact:
Professor Tarja Malm, https://uefconnect.uef.fi/en/person/tarja.malm/
Research group: https://sites.uef.fi/tarja-malm-group/