The lab is part of the Molecular Processes and Therapies research topic at MDC. We are a small international team dedicated to a supportive, collaborative and creative environment. Through NeuroCure we have collaborations with several clinical researchers and participate in a student- organized journal club that includes researchers from 5 diverse topics, including a clinical lab. Furthermore, the group leader has long-standing experience collaborating with clinical research consortiums and biotech companies for drug discovery and development.

Country: Germany
Supervisor: Hanna Hörnberg

The position

The lab is mainly focused on two projects with strong clinical ties: (1) development automated clinically-relevant social biomarker detection in rodent models of autism, and (2) identification of mechanism-based therapeutic interventions for social symptoms. 1. Development automated clinically-relevant social biomarker detection in rodent models: To improve the translational value of rodents in preclinical research, the development of experimental paradigms that can be used in both animals and humans is needed. Automatic quantification of social interactions in standardized settings are currently being tested in patients for more accurate and cost- effective diagnosis and biomarker detection of social interaction difficulties in autism and related conditions. Our research aims to back-translate these types of tests to rodent models by employing multiple-animal tracking in a naturalistic group-housed setting for investigation of self-selected social behavior in freely moving mice. We further employ neural circuit manipulations to provide a direct circuit link to distinct behavioral phenotypes. These experiments would combine behavioral neuroscience with automated video tracking and machine learning as well as chemogenetic manipulations of neural circuits, towards identification of clinically-relevant social biomarkers. 2. Identification of mechanism-based therapeutic interventions for social symptoms. Understanding the neurobiological underpinning of social symptoms is a crucial step towards better diagnostic and treatment approaches. We use proteomic and phosphoproteomics methods in cell- and circuit specific brain tissue of deeply phenotyped mice to identify behaviorally-linked molecular markers in multiple models, and examine how these markers change throughout development and predict behavioral and treatment outcome. By focusing druggable targets linked to distinct behavioral subgroups, we will validate the targets in patient samples towards mechanism-based stratification for a precision medicine approach to disorders with social symptoms.

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