A team of scientists from the University of Birmingham are working with the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology (Germany), the Wigner Research Centre for Physics (Hungary), and Femtonics Ltd (Hungary), to develop new imaging technology to help understand the genetic basis of brain diseases.

brain genetics

The team, which includes  Professor Attila SikProfessor Ferenc Mueller and Dr John S. Fossey,  will develop a novel imaging technology to "nano-tag" gene products and visualize these molecules in live action. The method, termed Visual Genetics is a major development not only in brain research, but also in other medical applications including early stage cancer detection and toxicity studies.

Professor Attila Sik, Professor of Cellular Neuroscience who will be leading the project explains:

“The genetic basis of most brain diseases is still unknown. Many dozens or even hundreds of mutations may contribute to schizophrenia, depression or autism. Often we do not even know when and where these mutations act in the brain. The current ignorance in this area limits not only the diagnosis of neuro-psychiatric disorders, but also the therapeutic possibilities.

However, through the development of this radical new technology we will be able to see in real time what genetic changes are happening inside nerve cells and how genes are activated across the brain during development and in different types of behavior. It will also allow us to be able to compare the healthy and diseased state.”

The research is made possible by a €4M Horizon 2020 grant from the European Union, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, which aims to accelerate the translation of world-class science into industry. Horizon 2020 FET RIA (Future and Emerging Technologies) is incredibly competitive with the success rate of 1.4%, making the achievement even more incredible.