European Research Council honours UKE scientists

12 November 2020
EUR 2.5 million for brain research in Hamburg

The University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) has received funds of EUR 2.5 million as part of a first Synergy Grant from the European Research Council for excellent researchers. Prof. Dr. Thomas Oertner, Director of the Institute of Synaptic Physiology at the UKE, has received the award along with three other scientists in Germany, France and the United States. The researchers are working on the control of physiological brain states by so-called microglia cells. 

Basic research into immune cells of the central nervous system 

The award-winning project "Microglia Control of Physiological Brain States (MicroCOPS)" is based on the assumption that the mutual signal transmission between neurons and microglia is crucial for a healthy and efficient brain.  Oertner, who is also Deputy Director of the Center for Molecular Neurobiology (ZMNH) at UKE, remarked: "Microglia act as a local immune system, protect the brain from infections and generally ensure that nothing goes wrong. Although there is a lot of speculation about possible additional functions of microglia, the knowledge about these cells is still very fragmented." There are indications that microglia play a key role in neurological diseases. The four professors, who hail from Hamburg, Göttingen, New York and Paris, now aim to pool their expertise in gene expression analysis and state-of-the-art imaging technologies to advance the fight against neurological disorders and gain a clearer picture of how the brain works.

First ERC Synergy Grant for UKE

This is the first ERC Synergy Grant with a total funding volume of EUR 10 million, according to UKE. The hospital has already received 22 ERC Grants. The State Research Funding Hamburg has funded research projects focusing on the interaction between the immune and nervous systems since 2016. Findings from these pilot projects help UKE succeed in the Europe-wide bid for the best research concepts.


Sources and further information

ERC Grants

Die Förderung von grundlagenorientierter Pionierforschung ist einer der Schwerpunkte der Europäischen Union. Dafür wurde der Europäische Forschungsrat (European Research Council/ERC) geschaffen. ERC Grants sind aktuell Teil des „Horizont 2020“ genannten EU-Rahmenprogramms, mit dem die Europäische Union sowohl die Grundlagenforschung als auch anwendungsnahe Forschungsfelder finanziert.

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