New Research Direction
The Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research has entered a phase of re-orientation. The appointment of Endocrinologist and Geneticist Jens Brüning as new Director of the Institute in February 2011 has brought about a major change in the Institute’s long-term research strategy.
The importance of the brain for regulation of energy and glucose metabolism is set to become a new focal point of research. Another key line of enquiry will be exploring the basis for the raised incidence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease in patients with pre-existing metabolic disorders.
Once the regulatory mechanisms of the CNS are understood at molecular, cellular and physiological levels, this could lead to new therapeutic approaches in cases of dysregulation such as obesity (adipositas) or type-2 diabetes. In close collaboration with the MPI for Biology of Aging, the Excellence Cluster CECAD and the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetology and Preventative Medicine at the University Hospital of Cologne, this goal will be actively pursued in coming years.
Previous research approaches
The Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research with the Klaus-Joachim-Zülch-Laboratories of the Max Planck Society and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Cologne focused on clinical research in the fields of Neurology and Oncology. Established research groups will continue their projects. Clinically oriented research refers to its three branches: basic research, disease-oriented research and patient-oriented research.
The majority of research projects at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research so far can be classified as “disease-oriented” projects. Predominantly, institutional investigations addressed stroke and cancer of the brain. Oncological research projects are also engaged in cancer genomics of lung tumours. Another project alignment lied in Cognitive Neurology.
As major research tools, imaging modalities including positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRT) and optical imaging (OI) are employed to map biomedical processes ranging from molecular to functional level in animal models, in healthy humans as well as in neurological/psychiatric patients.
The Institute’s main challenge is the transfer of newly achieved knowledge derived from its basic and disease-oriented research into patient-oriented studies and – wherever feasible - into clinical care. The proximity to the University Clinic of Cologne offers an excellent opportunity to translate knowledge from our models and preclinical hypotheses to patients in clinical trials or by analysing patient specimens. The close collaboration with members of the University Clinic paid off and proved its worth. In this context, the Max Planck and Minerva Research Groups play an important role: Together, they constitute the Klaus-Joachim-Zülch-Laboratories that act in close and successful collaboration with the clinics or clinically oriented institutes of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Cologne.
IN A NUTSHELL