HelMA's Scientific Concept
The scientific program of HelMA is organized in a two-dimensional matrix representing in the vertical column the program's focus on Morbus Parkinson and Alzheimer's Disease. Research topics (Clinic & Genetics, Mechanisms, Ageing & Environment, Diagnostics & Therapy, Systems Biology) are organized horizontally to stimulate scientific exchange and collaboration. In the research topic Clinic & Genetics patients are precisely phenotyped including behavioural assessment and functional imaging to study disease progression. Blood, DNA, RNA and plasma will be collected to determine genetic factors and risks and to study the molecular pathomechanism underlying these diseases. In the topic Mechanisms, Ageing & Environment cellular and animal models will be established to unravel molecular mechanisms underlying disease development and progression. Furthermore, the influence of environmental factors in combination with ageing process will be investigated. These studies might allow identifying lead structures for diagnosis and therapy development. In the Diagnostics & Therapy module biomarkers will be validated for their efficacy in presymptomatic diagnosis. Lead structures identified will be used to establish cellular systems for high-throughput compound screens (HTS). Potential compounds will be modified and validated in animal models. The Systems Biology module will integrate novel results generated by preceding research topics into in silico pathways and networks and aims to predict drugable genes feeding back into the all topics. Furthermore, protein interaction networks will be modelled taking into account quantitative protein regulation by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in dependence of environmental factors and age.