Bonn/Geneva, January, 30th, 2019. Frank Bradke, a senior researcher at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and a professor at the University of Bonn, will be awarded the Roger de Spoelberch Prize, which is endowed with 750,000 euros. The Swiss Roger de Spoelberch Foundationthereby honors his studies on the growth and regeneration of neurons. Bradke’s research aims to lay the basis for novel therapies, especially for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. The award ceremony will happen in Geneva this December.
“This is a great honor and a tremendous motivation for me and my team,” says Bradke. “Our research is pursuing some interesting approaches. However, I would like to emphasize that we do fundamental science. Certainly, we hope to gain insights that will ultimately benefit patients. That’s exactly what we are doing research for. But there is still a long way to go.”
The Foundation Roger de Spoelberch, based in Geneva, promotes and funds research on neurodegenerative and certain psychiatric diseases. The Roger de Spoelberch Prize has been awarded annually since 2009.
Releasing the brake
The neurons of the spinal cord lack the ability for self-healing. If they are damaged or even severed, this usually leads to permanent paralysis or other serious health issues. Therefore, Frank Bradke is researching how to release the brake that usually prevents the regeneration of cells of the spinal cord. In this respect, he and his colleagues demonstrated in laboratory studies that certain drugs stimulate damaged nerve cells to regrow while reducing scarring.
“Proteins are released from the scar tissue that develops a as result of injury. These molecules block the growth of damaged neurons,” says Bradke. “An ideal therapy for promoting the regeneration of neurons after spinal cord injuries should therefore reduce scarring and activate the neuron’s potential for regeneration.”
After studying at the Freie Universität Berlin and University College London, Bradke carried out research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg as part of his doctoral thesis. As a postdoctoral researcher, he moved to the University of California in San Francisco and Stanford University in 2000. In 2003, he was appointed a group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried. In 2011, he was awarded the IRP Schellenberg Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of regeneration research. In the same year he became full professor at the University of Bonn, and was appointed head of the Axon Growth and Regeneration research group at the DZNE. Bradke is an elected a member of the Leopoldina (the German National Academy of Sciences), the Academia Europaea, and the European Molecular Biology Organization(EMBO). In 2016, he was awarded the Leibniz Prize, which is the most important research award in Germany.
Dr. Marcus Neitzert
DZNE, Science Editor & Acting Deputy Head
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