Helmholtz Alberta Initiative in Neurodegenerative Disease Research
Researchers at the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases (CPPFD) at the University of Alberta have joined forces with prion disease researchers from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease (DZNE). The DZNE is a component of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. The strengths of the CPPFD expertise lie in prion strains, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), prion structure, prion cell biology and protein misfolding, as well as specialized instrumentation within biocontainment and a vivarium for prion bioassays. The CPPFD complements the strengths of the DZNE scientists in Bonn and Goettingen with their expertise in human prion disease, prion strains, NMR spectroscopy of misfolded proteins, a biobank of human samples from patients with genetic, sporadic and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, samples from patients with other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease as well as healthy controls, and prion disease biomarker discovery.
This Helmholtz Alberta Initiative in Neurodegenerative Disease Research (HAI-NDR) partnership is at the Edmonton site lead by Dr. Judd Aiken with the assistance of Dr. Holger Wille. The partnership emphasizes a number of essential questions employing diverse methodologies (molecular and cellular biology, electron and confocal microscopy, whole animal imaging, mouse transgenesis, organotypic slices, genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) to address the fundamental research challenges of prion diseases, including: • Prion disease therapeutics based upon advances in prion protein structure and function • Biomarkers for early diagnosis of prion disease infection • New methods to define and characterize prion strains • Continued development of unique cell-based prion infection models • Examination of protein misfolding in other neurodegenerative diseases • Translation of findings to human prion diseases and other neurodegenerative disorders
An integral component of this research partnership between the CPPFD and the DZNE is the exchange of students and trainees providing them with exposure and access to novel protocols, approaches and state-of-the-art instrumentation.