Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MINDED (MultIscale precision therapies for NeuroDEvelopmental Disorders)
Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-12-31
The societal and economic impact, the growing incidence, and the lack of any cure call for radical changes in the way NDDs are studied and treated. Synergistic and highly interdisciplinary approaches combining the development of novel molecular therapies with innovative rehabilitation strategies hold potential for revolutionizing the life of NDD patients.
MINDED will develop and integrate across three major disciplines:
• nanomedicine, for the precise delivery of therapeutic and imaging agents to diseased sites by rationally designing multifunctional nanoconstructs;
• molecular neuroscience, for the identification/study of genes involved in NDDs and synthesis of RNAs for restoring their physiological expression;
• cognitive neuroscience robotics, for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic sensorimotor approaches to NDDs by assistive robotics.
The integration of nanomedicine, neuroscience and robotic technologies – the MINDED technologies – requires to establish a new class of scientists and entrepreneurs trained to stretch their knowledge over multiple disciplines, work in highly interdisciplinary teams, and think outside conventional silos. The main objective of MINDED is to bridge together diverse vertical silos building common foundations for future, highly interdisciplinary careers. As such MINDED aims at:
• develop a highly interdisciplinary post-doctoral training program by integrating notions pertaining to the fields of nanomedicine, molecular neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience robotics;
• involve post-doctoral scientists in highly interdisciplinary research activities aiming at developing advanced technologies for the assessment, stratification, treatment of NDD patients and at their business exploitations
Other on-going activities at the interface between neuroscience and nanotechnology involve the design, fabrication and testing of different nanoparticles for crossing the blood brain barrier and ‘infect’ the brain with RNA-based molecules; microfluidic chips for assessing ex-vivo the performance of nanoparticles while reproducing an artificial brain/vascular compartment; and the development of multiscale, hierarchical computational models to predict the biophysical behavior of polymeric nanomedicines.
At a the macroscopic scale, the Cognitive Neuroscience Robotics MINDED fellows are developing new diagnostic and therapeutic sensorimotor approaches against NDDs. In particular, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and visual analyses are being used to study the neural basis of acquired limb loss, congenital limb loss and supernumerary limb in collaboration with the CHUV in Lausanne and to assess body representation. This activity will improve our understanding of how body portions, such us limbs, are perceived by children and adults. Another group of MINDED fellows is looking at movement kinematics of autistic children and adults to infer on the stage of the diseases as well as develop novel tools for assessing the efficacy of therapeutic interventions. A third group of MINDED fellows is using humanoid robots, such as iCub, to investigate the effect of sensory sensitivity on training protocols for healthy and patients with Autistic Spectrum Disorders