Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - NEUROMICS (Functional genomics of the brain)

A common denominator of many brain diseases is the malfunctioning of synaptic communication. Therefore, the research carried out in the individual research projects by the NEUROMICS Marie Curie early stage training (EST) site, hosted by the Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was focussed on understanding the synaptic function by combining genomics, genetics and (cellular) functional research, collectively named functional genomics.

The programme offered young scientists in the field of functional neurogenomics nine early stage research training projects in the basic programme, lasting from nine months to one year, from which five PhD students were recruited for the advanced programme and an additional student was selected for our internal programme. Central to this EST programme was a training in which the candidates developed into expert researchers with the know-how to adequately and systematically approach complex biological questions at many different levels of analysis.

Trainees worked on neurogenomics concepts and were trained in state of the art functional neurogenomics methodologies, such as the genetics of (aberrant) gene function, large scale gene and protein expression profiling, bioinformatics and characterisation of individual gene functions, as well as in physiology of animal models of disease. This provided them with a well structured framework in order to quickly employ problem solving strategies that were of benefit to their future careers. In addition, trainees received an individually tailored training programme, dedicated to the project in which they participated.

Trainees were requested to present their plans in an early stage. This allowed them to actively participate in the scientific discussions and gain insight in the strategic planning of their own research project. As general training, courses were offered to improve their personal effectiveness, along with language courses. These were highly valued by the foreign students who were willing to integrate and trying to find their way in a new country. The basic training provided basic knowledge in the neuroscience field with emphasis on genomic techniques, whereas the advanced programme provided in-depth expertise training in different neuroscience research areas.

All trainees started their project in the context of genetic and genomic differences related to brain function and dysfunction. There were strong technology driven interactive elements between the various projects and, during the course of the projects, several collaborations evolved between trainees themselves, between trainees and external national or international collaborators, and with the small and medium enterprise (SME) Synaptologics, which was involved in the project. This integral training programme ensured a good overview of the functional neurogenomics field and its current developments.

The fact that we had many more talented trainees than those that the Marie Curie programme could host financially was a clear indicator of the success of the selection procedure which we applied via the provision of a basic and an advanced programme. The projects in the basic and advanced programmes were part of two research topics that dealt with specific aspects of basic and disease models of synaptic functioning. In 'molecules at the synapse', the functional role of presynaptic and postsynaptic proteins that were crucial to synapse formation and stabilisation was studied. Synaptic molecules in models of disease focussed on the identification of genes, transcriptional activators and their target genes that played a role in neuronal disease susceptibility. Individual research projects dealt with the elucidation of gene and protein cascades and with the dynamic properties of the encoded proteins involved in complex neuronal traits. Genotype and phenotype relationships, important for the functioning of the brain, were established, allowing for the discovery of genes underlying neurological disorders in humans.

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