Professor Milos Pekny’s Laboratory for Astrocyte Biology and CNS Regeneration at the Sahlgrenska Academy is a partner in the research project Targeting brain inflammation for improved function recovery in acute neurodegenerative disorders (TargetBraIn). This FP7 large-scale integrating project has received a research funding of EUR 12 million, and brings together seven research laboratories and two biotech companies from Sweden, Israel, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France.
TargetBraIn focuses on better understanding the role of immune cells and astrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) in stroke-induced damage and recovery. The project will include studies of how the local environment of the cells can be controlled in order to support cell survival, regenerative processes and the formation of new nerve cells, either from the body’s own stem cells or from transplanted progenitor cells.
The TargetBraIn consortium aims at developing therapies which can stimulate the plasticity of brain cells by immunomodulation with the ultimate goal being to improve the functional recovery of patients after stroke.
Professor Milos Pekny and his colleagues have made several significant contributions to the field. They identified astrocytes as important players in the regeneration of neuronal axons and synapses and for the protection of the ischemic boarder zone (so called penumbra) in stroke. They also showed that modulation of astrocyte activity improves integration of neural grafts or transplanted neural progenitor cells into the CNS. These results formed the basis of the hypothesis that astrocytes are an important target for new therapies for stroke and other CNS diseases.
“We are very happy about this EU funding. It will allow research in this important field to go deeper and to have a broader perspective, not least through expanding and strengthening our collaborative research network”, says Milos Pekny.
The scientists hope that, in the long term, they will be able to develop new treatment strategies for stroke and other neurological diseases. TargetBraIn has a completely new and unique approach that places the immune system and astrocytes on the center stage of future stroke treatment strategies. It builds on the results of many years of research conducted by the consortium partners.
“More than half of stroke patients have some form of disability, which affects, for example, speech, motor functions, memory or concentration ability. Collaboration within the consortium will create new opportunities to find out how we can use the immune system to achieve better and faster functional recovery in these patients”, says Associate Professor Marcela Pekna, the Director of the Laboratory of Regenerative Immunology, who also takes part in TargetBraIn.
Professor Milos Pekny coordinates together with Professor Michael Nilsson and other scientists at the Center for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, several research projects with similar goals. These are in particular The Culture and Brain Health Initiative, financed by the STENA Foundation, and the research program New strategies for brain regeneration after stroke – from laboratory bench to patient to population financed by the AFA insurance company. Professor Pekny is also a partner in EduGlia, another project financed by the EU.
“The support from the EU gives us good opportunities for collaboration and exchange between these projects, where we at the Sahlgrenska Academy can continue building bridges between basic and clinical neuroscience research”, says Milos Pekny.