Our research is interested in the underlying mechanisms of trace metal biology in the Central Nervous System (CNS) in health and disease. Especially zinc and its function at synapses and in intracellular signaling are at the core of our research. Thereby, zinc as an environmental factor, taken up by the diet, is also at the center of gut-brain interactions.
We are especially interested in the functional interaction of non-genetic factors and the CNS in mechanisms such as synapse formation and maturation in health and disease. For example, dysregulation of trace metals is reported in many brain disorders. Their role in modifying synaptic function needs to be investigated in more detail, especially since many brain disorders seem to have a genetic and an environmental component triggering the disease.
To investigate the role of non-genetic factors in disorders of the CNS, we use several approaches. For example, targeted manipulation of biometal levels in animal models and cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells is a significant goal in our research. To that end, the development of novel drug carriers (i.e., Nanoparticles) and assays designed to evaluate their biological effects, safety, and toxicity has become an essential part of our research. On the other hand, we investigate human patients with selected disorders and perform a state-of-the-art assessment of their cell biology using hIPSC.
Understanding how environmental and genetic factors contribute to trace metal homeostasis will hopefully allow the development of research and therapeutic strategies to normalize function in individuals with brain disorders.