The EUSynapse project is an Integrated Project, part of the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union. 17 Partners and a total of 21 scientific groups in the EU and EU-associated countries are working together, trying to understand the involvement of synapses in neurological disorders ("Synaptopathies").
From molecules to networks: understanding synaptic physiology and pathology in the brain through mouse models
Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health / Studying the Brain and Combating Diseases of the Nervous System
Project Number: LSHM-CT-2005-019055
Total cost: 9,302,904 Euro
Commission funding: 8,000,000 Euro
Duration: 48 months
Starting date: 01/12/2005
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V.
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany
Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, Göttingen, Germany
Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Bordeaux, France
Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
University College London, London, United Kingdom
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Institute of Experimental Medicine, Budapest, Hungary
Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Universidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain
Alvarez de Toledo, Guillermo
Institute of Experimental Medicine, Prague, Czech Republic
Medical Research Council, London, United Kingdom
Institut Pasteur, Paris, France
Sygnis Bioscience GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany
Synaptic Systems GmbH, Göttingen, Germany
Faust Pharmaceuticals, Illkirch, France
The involvement of synapses in many neurological diseases (synaptopathies) is becoming increasingly apparent in recent years. Yet, despite considerable advances in our understanding of synaptic signal transmission processes, much remains to be delineated with respect to the molecular details.
Our aim is to further our understanding of synaptic function using multiple systems. Starting from cell free systems (in vitro) we also want to take full advantage of genetically modified mice (in vivo), particularly those serving as models for synaptic dysfunction in neurological diseases.
Innovative and state of the art technologies will be applied and optimised, including biochemical, molecular, electrophysiological, and optical tools. We will derive detailed knowledge of molecular machineries that drive synaptic transmission and of mechanisms responsible for changes in the synaptic properties (synaptic plasticity).
We expect that these studies will provide invaluable insights into synaptic function and dysfunction and their contribution to complex brain functions in health and disease.
Neurological and psychiatric disorders are among the most prevalent and debilitating diseases of modern societies. Most of these, prominently including Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia, stroke, chronic pain, and dementia are long-lasting diseases, incapacitating afflicted people for years and even decades, which results in human suffering and immense socio-economic costs. It is becoming apparent that seemingly complex diseases can often be traced to the dysfunction of single or very few molecules. An increasing list of neurological disorders is caused by mutations in proteins, either directly causative for the disease process or increase the susceptibility for developing clinical symptoms. The European Commission has recently underlined the urgency of research in one of he most central areas of neurosciences where connection to diseases is evident but not well understood at the mechanistic level. While it is a long way from understanding the cause of a disease to an effective treatment, it is clear that therapeutic strategies can be developed only by research aimed at an in-depth analysis of the aberrant proteins and their impact on the hierarchy of simple and increasingly complex neuronal functions.
An international consortium of renowned scientists and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have joined forces to assist the European Commission in addressing and solving the problems outlined above. Significant progress is anticipated during the duration of four years, thus getting closer to the overall goal of combating and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders that arise from synaptic dysfunction.
A new antibody labels the vesicular GABA Transporter vGaT in cultured neurons
Neuroligin (green) is localised to postsynaptic spines along dendritic processes (red) of a nerve cell in culture
The overall aim of the project is to build on the treasure trove of information provided by the complete genome sequences of humans and other species. It is one of the major goals to stimulate and sustain multidisciplinary and basic research in order to underpin applications to human health. Both forward and reverse genetic approaches have been immensely facilitated by the availability of genomic databases, affecting virtually all fields of life sciences.
The EUSynapse consortium will significantly further the understanding of synaptic function by using the mouse as the prime model organism. Based on the ability to manipulate the expression levels of synaptic proteins, their role in synaptic transmission and in more complex brain functions will be better understood, providing links to human diseases and identifying candidate drug targets for therapeutic intervention in synaptopathies. Major milestones include
The work of the consortium will make significant contributions
Furthermore, standardization of techniques for studying synaptic function will be directly applicable both for diagnostics and the screening/evaluation of potential therapeutics
If you are interested in more information, please contact the project management.