AD/PD 2019, the 14th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and related neurological disorders, took place in Lisbon, Portugal on March 26-31. It was an excellent meeting to get updated about the current achievements in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease research, drug discovery programs and clinical trials.

Given the recent failures in clinical trials, there is an obvious need within the scientific community to gain new insights into the pathological mechanisms behind these devastating diseases. Accordingly, academic institutions, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies are making great efforts to understand the underlying causes of neurodegeneration.  For instance, as presented by Dr. Michel Goedert (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Neurobiology division, Cambridge, UK), electron cryo-microscopy revealed striking difference in tau conformation among different neurodegenerative diseases. I can envision that this knowledge will help to explain the diversity of tauopathies in various neurodegenerative diseases.

Another focus of many presentations was to understand the spreading of synucleino- and tauopathy. Several groups presented data on alpha-synuclein and tau uptake and aggregation caused by these proteins. However, in vitro modelling of dynamic processes in neuronal cells, such as seed spreading, aggregation, and propagation, is especially challenging. Currently, many researchers are using microfluidic chamber systems with low throughput and thus, with limited application for drug discovery programs. We at Cellectricon addressed this bottleneck and developed a high-capacity platform suitable for modelling all aspects of progressive neurodegenerative diseases in vitro, as presented in Cellectricon’s recent webinar and poster presentation at the AD/PD meeting.

This platform is based on a multiwell plate format with 96 experimental units that allows for monitoring and intervention of uptake, spreading, aggregation and propagation of proteinopathies in neuronal circuits. Together with academic institutions, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies, we apply this platform for high-content confocal imaging and optical electrophysiology to build an understanding of the mechanisms and functional consequences of progressive proteinopathies. By this, we are evaluating current hypotheses and testing novel strategies in preventing progressive pathologies seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.

director, cns research

Sebastian Illes

Sebastian joined Cellectricon in 2018. Previously, he held a position as research project leader at the University of Gothenburg. Sebastian did his Post-Doc at the Institute for Molecular Regenerative Medicine (PMU, Salzburg, Austria) and worked as guest researcher at the Natural and Medical Science Institute, Reutlingen, Germany. He holds a diploma in biology with specialisation of neurodevelopment (Ruhr-University-Bochum, Germany) and did his PhD at the neurology department at the Heinrich-Heine University, Duesseldorf, Germany, where he, for the first time, combined pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons with microelectrode array technology in pre-clinical research. Sebastian is still affiliated to University of Gothenburg where he is conducting independent research on human iPSC-derived neuronal circuit models for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.