Laboratory of Neuronal Communication (VIB-KU Leuven)
The research interests of the Laboratory of Neuronal Communication are defined as:
Altered synaptic communication has been identified as one of the leading causes of various neurological and psychiatric disorders, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unresolved. Hence, establishing an understanding of synaptic communication at the molecular level in relation to neurological disease, in particular Parkinson’s disease, would be a breakthrough that would have enormous implications for human mental health. The challenge that lies ahead of us is to identify which (target-)genes are responsible and/or mutated in patients with neurological disorders, allowing us to specifically assess the function of these genes with the ultimate goal of understanding how these disorders arise. Drosophila is ideally suited for such studies as it is straightforward to combine genetics with elaborate live imaging, electrophysiology and electron microscopy at single identified neurons. Although the proteins we study are well conserved between human and flies, we consider it critical to also test key aspects of our findings in human neurons. Here we resort to the manipulation and differentiation of human embryonic stem cells. By combining the characterization of novel genes and gene-networks involved in neurotransmission with analyzing the function of neurological disease genes in synaptic function in flies and human neurons, our team will be in a unique position to pursue the understanding of molecular bases of mental and neurological disease.