Connecting European Neuroscience

FENS SfN Summer School 2015 Faculty

Here is the list of the faculty members who will be giving lectures at the FENS SfN Summer School 2015 on Shared mechanisms and specificity in neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientific Chairs

Maria Grazia Spillantini (University of Cambridge, UK)

Professor of Molecular Neurology, John Van Geest Centre for Brain Repair, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge. 

Maria Grazia Spillantini studies the molecular neuropathological features of neurodegenerative diseases and how they relate to disease pathogenesis. She was the first to identify alpha-synuclein as the major component of Lewy bodies and Lewy neuritis, the defining neuropathological features of Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Her findings have opened up a new field, and these diseases are now often referred to as alpha-synucleinopathies. She identified one of the first mutations in the Tau gene as a cause for familial frontotemporal dementia, and has thus established that Tau dysfunction is sufficient to cause degeneration and dementia in diseases now known as tauopathies.

Emiliana Borrelli (Universiry of California Irivine, USA)

Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Universiry of California Irivine. 

Research abstract: Dopamine is a central neuromodulator of the CNS. Dysfunctions of dopaminergic homeostasis leading to either low or high dopamine levels are causally linked to Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, addiction and endocrine tumors. Studies conducted at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels aim to uncover the molecular mechanisms by which dopamine receptor’s signaling controls neuronal functions and behavior. Genetically engineered mice (knock-out mice) constitute our experimental models in which we analyze how altered or abolished expression of dopamine receptors in specific neurons affects physiological responses. A particular interest is devoted to the analysis of dopamine-mediated effects on motor control and addiction to drugs of abuse. These studies are relevant to the understanding of human neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Faculty Members

Roger Barker (Univeristy of Cambridge, UK)

  • Roger Barker is the Professor of Clinical neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and is an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. He trained in Oxford and St Thomas’ Hospital in London and after completing his general medical training undertook a PhD at Cambridge on neural grafting before completing his neurology training including working with the late David Marsden. He set up his own research group in 1997 and now runs a laboratory investigating basic and clinical aspects of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. He has been involved in gene and cell based trials for patients with these conditions and currently co-ordinates an EU funded transplant programme using human fetal tissue for patients with PD. He has published over 300 papers and is Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Neurology.
  • YESTERDAY, TODAY and TOMORROW- The history and future of cell based therapies for Parkinson’s Disease.

Patrizia Casaccia (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA)

  • Patrizia Casaccia MD PhD is professor of Neuroscience, genetics and Genomics and Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY). She received her MD from Catholic University (Italy) and her PhD in Neuroscience from the State University of New York (Brooklyn). She then did postdoctoral work at Cornell University Medical College (New York, NY) and worked at Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine at NYU and at UMDNJ-Rutgers. Dr. Casaccia is on the editorial board of several journals and has served on peer review committees for several different granting agencies including the National MS Society. She has received the Javitz Award form the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, a Recognition Award for Rutgers Women In Neuroscience (New Jersey) and the New Jersey Cancer Commission Award for Scientific Excellence. Her laboratory covers several research areas including: Myelin Biology during development and disease; Epigenomics and neurodegeneration.

Alastair Compston (Univeristy of Cambridge, UK)

  • Alastair Compston, PhD, MBBS, FRCP, is Professor of Neurology and Head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. He received his medical degree from the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in London; and trained in neurology at the National Hospital, Queen Square. He has written c850 publication on the clinical science and history of neurology. He is a former editor of Brain; and president of European Neurological Society and the Association of British Neurologists. Professor Compston is a fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, and foreign associate member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of the USA. He has received the Sobek Foundation International Research Prize, the Charcot Award of MS International Federation, the K-J Zülch Prize of the Max Planck Society, the McDonald Award of the MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the World Federation of Neurology Medal for Scientific Achievement in Neurology, the Dystel Prize of the American Academy of Neurology and the National MS Society of the USA, and the Hughlings Jackson Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Kelly Del Tredici (University of Ulm, Germany)

  • A native of San Francisco, California, Dr. Del Tredici (MD, PhD) came to Germany on a Fredrick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship from Harvard University (1989) after studying at Loyola University (Chicago) and Fordham University (New York City). She completed medical school at the Goethe University Frankfurt/Main (2003), receiving her doctorate there in anatomy in 2004. Dr. Del Tredici was a medical resident at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Neurology in Winnenden (near Stuttgart) until 2006, when she became a postdoctoral fellow at the Dr. Senckenberg Anatomical Institute (Institute for Clinical Neuroanatomy, Goethe University Frankfurt). She has been a member of the Department of Neurology at the University of Ulm, together with her husband, Heiko Braak MD, since 2009, where her current research foci are the clinical neuroanatomy and neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Ronald Melki (National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), France)
  • Dr. Ronald Melki got his PhD in 1990 at the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris and a habilitation diploma in 2000. He is Director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. His team has been involved in characterizing the assembly process of infectious proteins since 1999. The team contributed to the demonstration that huntingtin Exon1 and alpha-synuclein assemblies, involved in Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, respectively, released within the medium upon cell death are taken up by healthy neighbor cells which strongly suggests that the passage of pathogenic misfolded protein aggregates from neuron to neuron within the brain contribute significantly to neurodegeneration (Ren et al., NCB, 2009, Hansen et al., J Clin Invest, 2011, Brundin et al., Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 2010). Since 2011, the team documented molecular chaperones-alpha-synuclein and huntingtin interaction and identified the surface interfaces involved in the interaction (Pemberton et al, J Biol Chem, 2011; Redeker et al, J Biol Chem 2012; Nury et al, Anal Chem, 2015; Monsellier et al, J Biol Chem, 2015). The team identified huntingtin Exon1 and alpha-synuclein high molecular weight assemblies that are most toxic to cells and documented their interaction with cell membranes and uptake and transport using cultured and primary neuronal cells (Pieri et al, Biophys J, 2012; Trevino et al, J Biol Chem, 2012; Freundt et al, Annals of Neurol, 2012). Most recently, the team generated alpha-synuclein assemblies that differ structurally and functionally, laying down molecular basis for different synucleinopathies (Bousset et al, Nat Comm 2013).  The team has expertise in protein expression, folding and misfolding, in biochemical, biophysical and structural methods such as NMR, AFM, TEM, FTIR, CD, SAXS, AUC, MST, SEC-MALS, 2D-gel electrophoresis, Mass spectrometry and in cell biology techniques such as fluorescence microscopy including confocal, cell sorting, reporter cell lines expressing fluorescent alpha-syn and huntingtin Exon 1.

Antonio Pisani (Fondazione Santa Lucia, Italy)

  • Dr. Pisani is a physician-scientist with a long standing interest in the basic and clinical aspects of basal ganglia dysfunction, with a specific interest in dystonia and Parkinson’s disease. As Head of the Neurophysiology and Plasticity laboratory at Fondazione Santa Lucia, in Rome, he provides guidance in the planning and execution of the experiments. Since 2003-2004, he has been deeply involved in research on dystonia, focusing on the role of striatal function in the pathogenesis of this movement disorder. In detail, he focused on the functional interplay between striatal dopamine and acetylcholine, characterizing the alterations occurring in distinct rodent models of DYT1 dystonia. His long-term commitment to this field of research is witnessed by the number of peer-review publications as well as by the organization of four editions of an international workshop on dystonia (2007-2009-2011-2013). As a neurologist involved full-time in clinical practice, his main scope has been to try to fill the gaps between basic neuroscience and clinical neurology, by working on animal models of human diseases, specifically movement disorders. 

Wiep Scheper (VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

  • The research of Wiep Scheper focuses on disease mechanisms related to maintenance of proteostasis, and especially the role of the UPR in AD. Her group has shown that activation of the UPR is an early event in AD as well as other common neurodegenerative disorders that are associated with protein misfolding and aggregation. Her research has obtained external funding from several national and international sources. Scheper has worked in labs at Utrecht University (Netherlands), UMass (USA), AMC/University of Amsterdam, KU Leuven (Belgium), Cambridge University (UK) and has recently moved with her lab to the VUmc in Amsterdam. Scheper is member of the scientific advisory board of the Internationale Stichting Alzheimer Onderzoek, editor of BioMed Research International and Journal of Neurodegenerative Diseases. 

John Hardy (University College London, UK)

  • Prof John Hardy is a geneticist and molecular biologist whose research interests focus on neurological disease. Dr. Hardy received his B.Sc. (Hons) degree from the University of Leeds, UK (1976) and his Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, UK where he studied dopamine and amino acid neuropharmacology. Dr. Hardy received his postdoctoral training at the MRC Neuropathogenesis Unit in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and then further postdoctoral work at the Swedish Brain Bank in Umeå, Sweden where he started to work on Alzheimer’s disease. He became Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at St. Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College, London in 1985 and initiated genetic studies of Alzheimer’s disease whilst there. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1989 and then took the Pfeiffer Endowed Chair of Alzheimer’s Research at the University of South Florida, in Tampa in 1992. In 1996 he moved to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, as Consultant and Professor of Neuroscience. He became Chair of Neuroscience in 2000 and moved to NIA as Chief of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics in 2001. He won the MetLife, the Allied Signal, the Potamkin, the IFRAD and the Dan David Prizes for his work in describing the first genetic mutations, in the amyloid gene in Alzheimer’s disease, in 1991 and the Anne Marie Opprecht and Priztker Prizes for his work in dissecting the genetics of Parkinson’s disease. He was Head of the Neurogenetics Section, National Institute of Ageing, Bethesda, USA and in 2007 took up the Chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at the UCL Institute of Neurology.  His current work focuses on finding genetic predispositions to dementia, movement disorders and motor neuron diseases and in understanding how genetic variability in gene expression contributes to that predisposition.

Harald Neumann (University of Bonn, Germany)

  • Harald Neumann, MD, is Professor of Neural Regeneration at the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology of the University of Bonn. He received his medical degree from the University of Wuerzburg. He was trained as clinician at the Department of Neurology at the University of Ulm. He performed research in Neuroimmunology at the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and the European Neuroscience Institute Goettingen, Germany. His team has been involved in characterizing the mechanisms of inflammatory neurodegeneration and the microglial immunoreceptors contributing to neuron-microglia communication. He has written more than 125 publications in peer reviewed journals (with >7000 citations; h-Index: 42).

Elena Moro (Joseph Fourier University, France)

  • Dr. Elena Moro is Professor of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France. She has completed her medical studies (including a PhD in Neurosciences) in Italy. She has been faculty (up to the rank of Associate Professor of Neurology) of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Toronto, Canada, for 10 years. Her main area of clinical expertise concerns movement disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. Since the beginning of the introduction of deep brain stimulation (DBS) as surgical treatment for movement disorders, she has started to study its clinical mechanisms of action and the investigation of new brain targets for DBS. With Dr A. Lozano in Toronto she has been a pioneer in investigating the clinical effects of motor cortex stimulation in essential tremor and the stimulation of the pedunculopontine nucleus in progressive supranuclear palsy.

Sreeganga Chandra (Yale University, USA)

  • Dr. Sreeganga Chandra is currently an Associate Professor at Yale University. After completing her undergraduate degree in India, she received her Ph.D. from Purdue University. She did her postdoctoral studies in the lab of Dr. Thomas Südhof, then at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where she characterized the structure and function of a-synuclein.  In 2007, she started her independent lab in the Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair (CNNR) at Yale University. The central theme of her research is synaptic dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease.  Her lab is actively investigating the normal physiological functions of the synuclein protein family.  Another area of research is the intersection between Parkinson’s disease and lysosomal storage diseases, most notably Gaucher’s disease and neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. Her lab uses a variety of genetic and molecular approaches to gain insight into early synaptic events in Parkinson’s disease.

Vania Broccoli (San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Italy)

  • Broccoli Vania is a neuroscientist of the CNR Institute of Neuroscience and is leading the Research Unit of “Stem Cells and Neurogenesis” at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy. He has unraveled some of the molecular mechanisms that control key processes of brain development including neural stem cell identity, neural commitment and migration, neural network establishment and function. Lately, his group has developed new technologies of direct cell reprogramming to convert mouse and human skin fibroblasts into functional induced neurons and other neural cells. Now, he aims to further strengthen these approaches to establish safe and efficient systems for producing functional human neurons suitable for convenient in vitro disease modeling approaches. 

Aviva Tolkovsky (University of Cambridge, UK) 

  • Aviva Tolkovsky is presently working in Prof Maria Spillantini’s group, having retired in 2009 from the Dept of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, where she was a Reader (Associate Professor) in Neuronal Survival Studies. Her main interest has been to decipher the mechanisms of neuronal cell death during development and disease, focusing on mechanisms of apoptosis and how neurotrophins prevent this, to cryptic mechanisms of death that dominate even in the presence of neurotrophins when neurons are insulted by environmental damage and aggregate-prone proteins such as poly-glutamine expanded mutant Huntingtin and mutant tau. It is through this work that we re-discovered the neglected process of autophagy, and its importance, together with mitophagy, in neuronal health and disease.
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