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HOPE

Hereditary Retinal Disorders - From Patients Towards Therapies

TypeDisease-specific Network for Rare Diseases
Project Coordinator:Prof. Bernd Wissinger
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Funding Period:2009 - 2015 (6 years)

'HOPE' was a disease-specific network for rare diseases funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for 2 successive periods, first funding period 2009 - 2012, second funding period 2012 – 2015.

Research of the 7 participants of the HOPE project focused on hereditary retinal disorders, a heterogeneous group of mostly rare ocular diseases with impaired light sensing and/or signal transmission within the neuroretina that causes loss of visual acuity, elevation of detection thresholds, constrictions or defects of the visual field and/or colour vision defects. The pathology affects the photoreceptors, the retinal pigment epithelium and/or the processing and transmitting first order neurons. Approximately 30.000 people in Germany are affected. Blindness results in loss of life quality, high risks for accidental injury and tremendous socio-economic costs associated with generally normal life expectancies of the patients.

More information on the archived website

OpAL

Optical and Adaptational Limits of Vision

TypeInitial Training Network (ITN)
Project Coordinator:Prof. Frank Schaeffel
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP7)
Funding Period:04/2011 - 04/2015 (48 months)

OpAL was an Initial Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under the Marie Curie Actions. It brought together 6 partners from 4 different countries and provided a platform to train young scientists at the interface of physics, optics and biology. Despite extensive research on the optics of the eye and the neuronal processing of the optical image that is projected on the retina, a number of basic questions are surprisingly unclear. Within OpAL, 12 young researchers were embedded in an individual personalised scientific project covering the overall research topic of the OpAL consortium. The proposed research projects elucidated the limits of visual performance, had direct implications for optical correction strategies (spectacles, refractive surgery) and for the understanding how different mono- and polychromatic aberrations limit vision and sensitivity in low light environments.

More information on the archived website

Edu-GLIA

Innovative Techniques and Models to Study Glia-Neuron Interactions

TypeFP7 Initial Training Network (ITN)
Project Coordinator:Dr. Thomas Wheeler-Schilling / Prof. Andreas Reichenbach
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission, 7th Framework Programme
Funding Period:15/09/2009 - 14/09/2013 (48 months)

The ITN Edu-GLIA aimed at equipping young researchers with the most advanced knowledge in glial cell research in order to generate a new generation of scientists dedicated to resolving open questions of glia-neuron interactions.

It became evident that glial cells are involved in virtually every aspect of nervous system function. Neurons and glia exchange chemical signals that are essential for the normal function of the nervous system, and are crucial in disease. Recently it was discovered that glial cells also act as neural stem cells both in early development and adulthood, and in synapse formation. This rapid progress in glia research generated not only many new insights but also numerous new questions. It became obvious that in order to deal with the complexity of glia-neuron interactions and to formulate new concepts in the field, novel experimental paradigms and methodologies were needed.

Edu-GLIA’s unique consortium, coming from academia & industry, was formed by twelve network partners from seven different countries, five associated partners from three countries, fifteen young researchers from eleven countries and visiting scientists. Jointly they realized a common goal: To create a European network of expertise in research on glia-neuron interactions, thereby providing an excellent and effective platform for the education of the employed PhD and post-doctoral students.

Each Edu-GLIA project elucidated one particular glia-neuron interaction within the central or peripheral nervous system and was assigned to one of the following three approaches:

  1. Glial contribution to information processing
  2. Role of glia in neurodegeneration and -regeneration
  3. Glial progenitor cells

The ITN Edu-GLIA set a high value on the training of the recruited young researchers in order to enhance their career prospects. Training was not restricted to ‘training-through-research’ but was complemented by systematic training in additional scientific skills as well as in skills beyond science (soft skills).

More information on the archived website

EuroVisionNet

Visual Impairment and Degeneration: A Road-map for Vision Research within Europe

TypeCoordination Project
Project Coordinator:European Vision Institute EEIG, Brussels, Belgium
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP7)
Funding Period:03/2008 - 02/2012 (48 months)

The concept of the project ‘Visual Impairment and Degeneration: A Road-map for Vision Research within Europe’ (EuroVisionNet) aims to coordinate and consolidate vision research activities and policies of the European vision research community in order to overcome the national fragmentation and to avoid duplication of work. EuroVisionNet will support and advise European societies and national organizations on both scientific and administrative issues. Offering educational and training workshops that cover both basic and clinical research would be an added benefit. These workshops and seminars will be tailored for the young as well as the highly advanced researcher.

The EuroVisionNet aims to address seven major challenges:

  • Better definition and acceptance of vision research in the scientific community
  • To overcome the still existing fragmentation of European research
  • To reduce duplication of research efforts
  • To increase communication between clinical and basic researchers
  • To foster collaborations between academic research and industry
  • To support clarity regarding national and international policy mandates relating to clinical research activities
  • To develop a better educational concept in the vision research community

To address these issues four major objectives are defined within the European Vision Net project:

  • Scientific integration of European vision research
  • Collaboration with public and private sector
  • Policies and guidelines for European vision research
  • Information and knowledge transfer

More information on the archived website

CavNet

L-type Calcium Channels in Health and disease

TypeResearch Training Network (RTN)
Project Coordinator:Prof. Marlies Knipper
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:12/2006 - 12/2010 (48 months)

Disturbances in ion channel function lead to serious diseases of the nervous system, skeletal and cardiac muscle, and intestine which makes ion channels important drug targets for the pharmaceutical industry. Calcium currents through L-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (L-VGCCs) play a key role in the cellular signalling in brain, heart, smooth muscles, sensory (e.g. inner ear, retina), and endocrine cells (e.g. pancreatic islets). In distinct cells of these organs, the pore forming 1-subunits Cav1.2 and/or Cav1.3 conduct Ca2+ currents that are required for their function.

To address the important question about the differential contribution and functional communication of these L-VGCC isoforms and their potential role in other tissues an already existing network of collaborating scientists will be complemented by excellent researchers providing the required advanced research methods and front-end ion channel expertise.

As Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 show an overlapping expression pattern in a variety of tissues and subunit-specific antagonists or agonists are not available so far, genetic tools are urgently needed to dissect the specific roles of both Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 in normal and pathological function. This consortium will complement its existing mouse models by new ones and will apply state of the art molecular biological, electrophysiological, Ca2+ imaging techniques and behavioural analyses to reveal the physiological role and pharmacotherapeutic potential of these channels with a special focus on various diseases (e.g Alzheimer, epilepsy, arrhythmias, diabetes, tinnitus, deafness).

The long standing and complementary expertise of the network partners will not only advance our understanding of the role of individual L-VGCC subtypes in health and disease but also provides an excellent opportunity for an integrative and interdisciplinary but appropriately focussed training in the field of signal transduction in general and ion channels in particular.

More information on the archived website

MyEuropia

European Training in Myopia Research

TypeResearch Training Network (RTN)
Project Coordinator:Prof. Frank Schaeffel
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:10/2006 - 09/2010 (48 months)

This application brings together a major part of the European expertise in myopia research. Biological mechanisms underlying myopia development are widely studied in the USA, Australia and, in particular, in the far East Asian countries. But until now, there is little contribution from Europe. Current research in myopia is funded exclusively by local govermental institutions. Given the increasing importance of myopia in the industrialized countries, a more bundled approach is necessary and timely.

The current application brings together three major approaches to arrest myopia development

  1. changing spectacle lens design
  2. identifying gene loci that are linked to myopia development
  3. investigating the biochemical signalling cascade from the retina to the sclera that controls axial eye growth and testing its pharmacological intervention.

A unique aspect of the research training in this RTN application is that we will be training physicists, computer science students and engineers in biological techniques. On the other hand, biology and medicine student will have an introduction on the technological aspects, in addition to the cutting-edge and more specialized training in the particular topics of their projects.

More information on the archived website

Neurotrain

Training and Understanding Neurodegenerative Diseases

TypeEarly Stage Research Training (EST)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:01/2006 - 12/2009 (48 months)

Cognitive function is the most precious of all human attributes, its loss is considered as one of the most severe and dreadful handicaps for human life quality. The prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases is increasing in the European society and will get even more prevalent in our ageing population. The focus of the proposed EST will be to promote and improve training possibilities and to improve our knowledge of neurodegeneration that will eventually lead to prevention and therapy. Ten internationally recognised research groups from three European countries link up in the context of a well defined collaborative project in order to formulate and implement a structured training programme for young researchers.

The participants have been responsible for the identification and characterisation of major genes for neurodegenerative diseases. This project will boost the professional career development of young researchers effectively, as the proposing research teams bring together a critical mass of theoretical and applied research capabilities by using a multidisciplinary/intersectorial approach.

Expertise available within the consortium has been grouped into three key topic areas, namely,

  1. genomics and biology of neurons,
  2. understanding of CNS and retinal function and dysfunction through the study of degenerative disease and
  3. development of therapeutic approaches using animal models of disease and cell based system.

Within these three thematic areas, members of the consortium combine internationally recognized track records in:

  1. mapping and cloning of disease genes
  2. expression regulation of neuron-specific genes,
  3. analysis of neuronal structure and pathophysiology,
  4. mechanisms of neuroprotection
  5. state-of-the-art analyses of global transcriptional and proteomic profiles of normal and degenerating tissues,
  6. the generation of animal or cellular disease models using transgenics, 'knockout' and more recently RNA interference technologies.

More information on the archived website

PolExGene

Biocompatible non-viral polymeric gene delivery systems for the ex-vivo treatment of ocular and cardio-vascular diseases width high unmet medical need.

TypeSpecific Targeted Project (STREP)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:06/2006 - 05/2009

The objective of this project is to develop a non-viral ex vivo gene therapy that will be applied for both ocular and cardiovascular diseases with high unmet medical need. The research of the project focuses on improving polymeric DNA-delivery by combining polyplexes with cell penetrating peptides (CPP). To circumvent the toxic and immunogenic problems related to viral vectors, the gene vectors developed in this project will be a non-toxic and non-immunogenic, biodegradable polymeric carrier based on multifunctional poly-a-aminoacids. The potential of the CPP-containing polyplexes regarding their transfection efficiency and the absence of any toxic or immunogenic side effects will be evaluated using two gene transfer approaches. In a first approach, cells will be transfected with polyplexes (i.e. polymer-DNA complexes) and then seeded on a polymer membrane prior to implantation. Alternatively, the polymer membrane will be surface coated with polyplexes prior to cell seeding and implantation. In order to enhance the internalisation efficiency, the polyplexes will be functionalised using Penetratin-like CPP. In order to improve the membrane-cell interaction and to enhance the cell proliferation and differentiation, the polymer membrane will be functionalised with cell interacting peptides (CIP).

PERACT

Perception and Action in Space

TypeMarie Curie Host Fellowships for Early Stage Research Training (EST)
Project Coordinator:Prof. Hanspeter A. Mallot
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:01/08/2004 - 31/07/2008 (48 months)

The current proposal is concerned with developing our understanding of the brain mechanisms, which subserve our ability to plan and control action in space. Specifically, it focuses on the sensorimotor processes, which underlie the integration of sensory information and the translation of sensory signals into motor commands. This is not only an interesting and central issue within systems neuroscience but also is likely to yield much in terms of novel therapies to alleviate the consequences of brain damage or disease following head-injury. In addition, the interaction with machine learning and robot control will be fruitful for understanding neural mechanisms on the level of information processing. For studying and teaching this field of research, the current proposal brings together scientists working with a wide range of techniques from theoretical modelling, single cell recordings in behaving monkeys, clinical neuropsychology, to system biology and functional imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

The proposed Research Training Project focuses on the production of adaptive spatial behavior based on the interplay of perception, central information processing, memory, learning, and motor action. The processing stream from perception to action will be studied on various levels. By quantitative measurements of behavior of freely moving humans and animals, as well as by synthesizing navigation and grasping with biomorphic robots, we will address the overall performance. On a finer level, sensory contributions are investigated using psychophysical techniques, e.g. by varying the available sensory information, as well as by tracking movements of the eyes. Neural mechanisms are studied by quantifying the behavioral deficits resulting from brain damage in patients (occipital and parietal lobes) or from experimental cooling of parts of the parietal lobe in monkeys. Single cell electrophysiology and functional brain imaging will be used to investigate neural mechanisms in the normal brain. Finally, statistical learning theory will be employed to study learning of sensorimotor coordination and recovery after brain damage.

The interplay of perception and action is mediated by the flows of information from the environment to the organism, between sensors and effectors within the organism, and from the organism to the environment. It is this notion of information, i.e. an entity coupling perception and action, which is studied in biological information processing. Only in this framework is it possible to define the notion of relevance of a piece of information for the organism. This is especially clear in spatial behavior, which is always a closed loop of perception and action. The proposal focuses on two well-defined tasks in the field of spatial behavior, (i) path following and obstacle avoidance in cluttered environments and (ii) hand movements for pointing, grasping, and manipulation.

More information on the archived website

RETNET

European Retinal Research Training Network

TypeResearch Training Network
Project Coordinator:Dr. Thomas Wheeler-Schilling / Prof. Shom S. Bhattacharya
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:01/01/2004 - 31/12/2007

The visual sense is the most precious of all human senses - its loss is considered as one of the most severe and dreadful handicaps for human life quality. Degenerative diseases of the retina (retinopathies) represent the most prevalent cause of registered blindness in the European society and will get even more prevalent in our ageing population. At the same time one is impressed by the ingenious capabilities and properties of the retina that has evolved to serve its unique function in light perception and first-order neuronal processing. The focus of the "European Retinal Research Training Network" ('RETNET') will be to promote and improve training possibilities in the field of visual neuroscience, molecular biology of the retina and ophthalmo-genetics and to improve our knowledge of retinal diseases that will eventually lead to prevention and therapy.

More information on the archived website

AMD-READ

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Assessment and Optimisation of Macular Function with Special Regard to Reading and Motor Control

TypeResearch and Technological Development (RTD)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 04/2005

The main objective of the AMD-READ project is the development of tools for testing macular function, which consider the disabilities caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), mainly disability of reading and motion control, in order to maintain, restitute or optimise these functions and therefore quality of life. These include psychophysical tests (e.g. contrast sensitivity, parafoveal letter recognition, figure/ground interaction, reading), eye movement recording with an eye-tracker during fixation and reading, evaluation of motion perception and exploration, assessment of fixation by Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope, and objective measurements by multifocal electroretinography with fixation control.

KYNA

Modulation of kynurenic acid synthesis in rodent models of retinal degeneration

TypeMarie Curie Individual Fellowship (MCIF)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 02/2005

Kynurenic acid (KYNA) may act as a neuroprotectant against retinal degeneration. I will investigate modulation of its retinal content and the expression and cellular distribution of key enzymes of KYNA synthesis kynurenine aminotransferases I and II (KAT I and II) in rodent models of optic nerve trauma, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

PRO-AGE-RET

Protection Against Ageing in Retina

TypeResearch and Technological Development (RTD)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 12/2004

Neurodegenerative diseases of the eye affect a large proportion (14 million in Europe) of the growing ageing population. Blindness or severe impairment of vision results from several processes such as ischemia or gene mutations in various groups of diseases e.g. retinal dystrophy, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, involving primarily photoreceptors (PR) or the inner retina, especially retinal ganglion cells (RGC). Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of blindness in Europe is a multifactoral condition, and both environmental and genetic mechanisms are probably affecting PR. To respond to this major societal health problem, we intend to promote a coordinative project between current and future national and industrial research programs on neuroprotection of retinal cells. The overhall objective of this neuroprotection project is to reduce the proportion of blind persons among the ageing population in Europe and abroad.

RETRAINET

Prevention and Therapy of Blinding Retinal Neuro-Degenerations

TypeResearch Training Network (RTN)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 08/2004

The mission of the proposed project RETRAINET aims at building up the knowledge base in an area of strategic importance, namely treatment strategies for neuroretinal degenerative disorders. In doing so, it promotes interactions between different research laboratories. The project involves core centers and associated laboratories needed to create a critical mass, to promote interactions between basic and applied research and to ensure maximum transfer of knowledge to and from basic and applied clinical sciences.

More information on the archived website

FIGHTING BLINDNESS

Prevention of Blindness: The Structure and Function of the Visual System

TypeMarie Curie Early Stage Training Site (EST)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 06/2004

The mission of the proposed Marie Curie Training Site "PREVENTION OF BLINDNESS: The Structure and Function of the Visual System" at the University Eye Hospital Tuebingen is, to apply with a truly multidisciplinary approach to improve the understanding of the normal and pathological visual system. In order to achieve this goal, nine different research groups are interacting in the fields of: (1) computer-assisted automated kinetic perimetry; (2) pupil campimetry; (3) psychophysical and electrophysiological study of the retina; (4) retinal pigment epithelium grafting; (5) release systems for intraocular drugs; (6) roles of melanin pigmentation; (7) function of colour vision; (8) subretinal visual prosthesis and (9) testing of photoreceptor-specific function. The application of cutting edge interdisciplinary technologies to fundamental visual questions is the driving force behind this proposal. For mutual understanding of the goals and accomplishments in each discipline, a strong interaction between clinicians, engineers, IT-specialists, pharmacologists and biologists is imperative. Our training site will allow this goal to be achieved and at the same time provide the opportunity of high impact interactions between the groups in which the fellows will be integrated.

VISION

Function and Dysfunction of the Visual System

TypeMarie Curie Early Stage Training Site (EST)
Project Coordinator:
Other Partners:
Funding Agency:European Commission (Framework Programm FP6)
Funding Period:xx/20xx - 12/2003

The mission of the proposed Marie Curie Training Site at the University-Eye-Hospital in Tuebingen "FUNCTION AND DYSFUNCTION OF THE VISUAL SYSTEM" is to apply a multidisciplinary approach to the understanding of the normal and pathological visual system. To achieve this goal eight research groups are interacting in the fields of cell physiology, molecular biology, retinal and clinical electrophysiology, histology, cell biology, experimental myopia research, psychophysics, colour vision, and molecular genetics. Remarkable recent advances in all of these fields have dramatically improved the prospects for finding new strategies for deciphering the function and dysfunction of the visual system. Indeed, the application of cutting edge interdisciplinary technologies to fundamental visual questions is a driving force behind this proposal. For mutual understanding of the goals and accomplishments in each research discipline, a strong interaction between geneticists, biologists, and ophthalmologists as well as engineers, pharmacologists and physiologists, is imperative. Our training site will allow this goal to be achieved and at the same time provide the opportunity of high impact interactions between the constituent groups in which the fellows will be integrated.