All neurodegenerative diseases are contagious

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) was founded in April 2009 as the 16th Helmholtz Center and one of the first German centers for health research by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the federal states involved. It is financed 90 percent by the federal government and 10 percent by the host states. The aim is to bundle competencies and create a new structure in health research.

Center of excellence

The DZNE is a center of excellence that pools outstanding research at nine locations in Germany. In the short time since its founding, it has established itself as one of the world's leading and internationally recognized scientific institutions in the research of neurodegenerative diseases. This is reflected in a large number of respected, productive working groups from all key areas of the DZNE, which have published many publications in internationally recognized specialist magazines. It is also reflected in a number of scientific prizes. The acquisition of several grants from the European Research Council and the award of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize 2016 from the German Research Foundation deserve special mention: Professor Frank Bradke received it for his groundbreaking research in the field of regenerative neurobiology.

"The DZNE offers optimal conditions for translational research into neurodegenerative diseases", emphasizes the scientific director of the DZNE, Pierluigi Nicotera. “The structure as a Helmholtz Center gives us planning security for research projects that often require patience, especially with diseases such as dementia or Parkinson's. The involvement of university research in turn means enormous clinical expertise for the DZNE and provides better access to patients. "

What does the DZNE do?

  • Root cause research: Numerous locations in the DZNE are investigating why nerve cells die in Alzheimer's dementia and what role the protein amyloid beta, which can be detected in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, plays.
  • Aging as a risk factor for neurodegeneration: It is still unclear what connection exists between aging and neurodegeneration. Possible factors could include metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. In Bonn, the molecular mechanisms that promote the onset of neurodegeneration in old age are being investigated.
  • Gene variants in Parkinson's disease: As part of an international research consortium, DZNE scientists from Tübingen have identified five new gene variants that affect the risk of Parkinson's disease. As a result, there are now a large number of gene variants that are associated with this disease.
  • Health services research: The diagnosis of dementia and the currently lacking treatment options present both the affected patients and their families with major challenges. This is why better care is the primary goal of current DZNE care studies in order to improve the quality of life of people with cognitive disorders and to provide targeted support to their relatives and nursing staff. DZNE researchers from Witten are examining and establishing new guidelines for patient care. Scientists from Rostock / Greifswald and Witten showed in a study (Demnet-D) that regional, self-organized and structured networking between providers of medical and nursing care and mostly voluntary self-help groups in so-called dementia networks improves care. The study results were taken into account in the “Second Act on Strengthening Care”. Since January 2017, the new regulation has made it possible for long-term care funds and private insurance companies to support regional, self-organized health networks with up to EUR 20,000 per year.
  • The Rhineland Study: In order to analyze risk factors that could be relevant for prevention, DZNE scientists accompany several thousand people over decades. The population studies are working on the implementation of the Rhineland Study, a large-scale epidemiological study that aims to identify which influencing factors with the aging process lead to normal or impaired brain function. For this purpose, over 30,000 people from the age of 30 years are to be observed at intervals of three years for up to 30 years. For example, lifestyle, physical activity, diet, but also genetic makeup as possible causes of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases are examined. In addition, various biomarker profiles are to be collected in order to identify risk factors for the diseases and to be able to develop new prevention strategies. Recruitment began in 2016, the second recruitment has now ended and two study centers have been completed.

Scientists from 55 nations

Together with Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain and Canada, the DZNE has signed a memorandum of understanding that aims to develop and apply uniform guidelines and technologies for research into neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, a cooperation with the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco (USA) enables research areas to be merged in order to accelerate the development of new therapies. The high proportion of international scientists shows that the DZNE is perceived as an attractive research center across borders. DZNE scientists come from over 55 nations.