On this page you find more information on LIGA’s ongoing research projects.
LifeBrain: Breaking new ground in cognitive neuroscience
The LifeBrain project aims to identify determinants of human brain development, cognitive functioning, and mental health and establish a solid knowledgebase for understanding how these three domains can be optimized throughout life. Specifically, the project intends to integrate the data from 11 longitudinal, mostly population-based cohort studies investigating cognitive and mental health from birth to old age. We plan to link these to national registries, biobanks and data from other large studies, and also enrich them with novel data. The LIGA team will be in charge of all genetic and epigenetic experiments conducted as part of LifeBrain. To this end, we will analyse DNA extracted from blood, saliva and buccal swabs for their genetic and epigenetic profiles using high-throughput technologies. For more information on the LifeBrain projects and our international collaborators, please visit the official LifeBrain website. Funding: European commission (from Jan 1, 2017 – Dec 31, 2021).
Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II)
BASE-II is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project that ascertains a large number of ageing-related variables with the aim to identify and characterize the factors associated with ‘healthy’ vs. ‘unhealthy’ ageing. BASE-II is a collaboration between University of Lübeck, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the German Institute for Economical Research, Charite University Medicine, Humboldt University Berlin, Free University Berlin, and the University of Tübingen. In BASE-II LIGA is in charge of conducting all molecular genetic (funded by the BMBF) and epigenetic experiments (funded by the Cure Alzheimer Fund). For more information on BASE-II see this page. Funding: Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (from Dec 1, 2016 – Nov 30, 2018).
DFG Research Group “ProtectMove”
Collaborative research group with the aim to investigate the nature and mechanisms of reduced penetrance in several movement disorders, predominantly Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. ProtectMove is made up of research teams from Lübeck, Kiel, Bolzano, Luxembourg and Vancouver, and is funced by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The LIGA team will co-lead four out of the eleven ProtectMove research projects including the implementation of a genome data analysis core (GDAC) unit. For more information on ProtectMove, its projects and progress, please visit the official project website. Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG (from Dec 1, 2016 – Nov 30, 2019).
MDSGene represents the newest addition to LIGA’s catalog of online genetic databases. MDSGene was developed by the LIGA team in collaboration with researchers in Lübeck and elsewhere. The database systematically links reported genetic mutations with movement disorder phenotypes and other demographic and clinical information and is freely available to the public at www.mdsgene.org. MDSGene is in part financed by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) and was officially launched at the 20th International MDS Congress in Berlin, Germany, in June 2016. To learn more about MDSGene see the editorial by Lill et al, 2016 in the journal Movement Disorders. Funding: Movement Disorder Society – MDS (Jan 1, 2015 – Dec 31 2017)
Eludidating The role of micro-RNAs in disease susceptibility
Micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to mRNAs and triggering their decay. LIGA is involved in two projects investigating the role of miRNAs in disease susceptibility. The first project (supported in part by the Peter und Traudl Engelhorn Foundation as 2-year stipend to LIGA researcher Dr. Inken Wohlers) assesses the effect of genomic variants on miRNA-to-mRNA binding. To this end, we have developed an in silico tool to predict the effect of DNA sequence variants on the strength of miRNA-to-mRNA binding which is currently being validated using data from large transcriptomics data sets. The second project (conducted in collaboration with our colleagues at the Neuroepidemiology and Aging Research Unit at Imperial College in London) will provide a systematic assessment of miRNA expression studies in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Funding: Peter und Traudl Engelhorn Foundation (Sept 1, 2016 – Aug 30, 2018).
Identification and characterization of complex disease genes
In addition to the above mentioned individually funded projects, LIGA is involved in a number of additional collaborative studies aimed at identifying novel genetic and epigenetic factors underlying susceptibility of complex diseases. One main focus of this work are neurodegenerative and neuroimmunological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (e.g. in the context of the “European Medical Information Framework – Alzheimer’s disease” [EMIF-AD] study, or the “Alzheimer’s Genome Project” [AGP] together with Rudy Tanzi’s group at Harvard Medical School), Parkinson’s disease (e.g. in collaboration with the “Genetic Epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease” [GEO-PD] consortium, the “Parkinson’s disease in Denmark” [PASIDA] study together with Beate Ritz’s group at UCLA, and the “EPIC4PD” study together with Lefkos Middleton at Imperial College London, UK), Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (e.g. as part of the FTLD Research Consortium), and Multiple Sclerosis (e.g. in collaboration with the “International MS Genetics Consortium” [IMSGC]). For information on our involvement in genetic studies of other traits and diseases please see also our up-to-date list of publications.