Neuromag July 2018 - Page 21

Although these approaches help they are still predictions and we need to obtain functional evidence from wet lab experiments. We cannot do this using classic cell biology anymore. With the speed by which we iden- tify genetic risk factors, this would be completely impractical. We have iden- tified hundreds of genes to investigate and therefore our lab has developed a fully automated cell culture system in which we can perform functional stud- ies in high throughput. We can culture clonal cell lines such as neuroblastoma cells as well as patient derived induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSc) to study the effect of the identified mutations in detail by using, for example, micro- scopic assays but also transcriptome, epigenome and proteomic assays. It has taken time to develop this ap- proach but last year we published our first systematic screen for new genes for Parkinson’s disease that was lead by a talented PhD student, Iris Jansen. We are using this approach now as a tool to investigate all the genes we identify with our genetic studies and in this way select the genes that are truely influencing disease risk. What are the practical applications of these findings in clinics? For genes associated with Mendelian forms of disease, a test can be de- veloped that can be used to diagnose the disease. But the main benefit of identifying disease genes is that they can serve as a starting point to study the molecular processes that lead to a disease. The genes identified by GWAS can be used to study the underlying biology of a disease and help to find new targets to develop a therapy that can either slow down or stop the dis- ease process. Although the path from finding a ge- netic risk factor to developing a ther- apy is a long and slow process, I think we live in exciting times. Genetics has contributed a lot to our understand- ing of disease and has often guided researchers in developing model sys- tems or choosing targets for therapy development. We keep finding new risk factors that sometimes confirm the mechanisms we work on, but also often show us new pathways that we did not consider before that have then opened up completely new lines of research towards new therapy. I am confident that in the coming years we will finally be able to develop effective therapeutic approaches that will ben- efit the patients and that genetics will play a crucial role in this. Thank you Prof. Dr. Peter Heutink for taking the time to talk with the Neu- romag about your research! Image sources were open source or be- long to the author, unless otherwise noted. Anastasia Illarionova is a GTC master student in the DZNE in the lab of Prof. Dr. Peter Heutink. Peter Heutink and his research group at the DZNE - What brings us together and supports us to bring the Neuromag to you - At the University of Tübingen, three international neuroscience graduate schools provide research oriented career tracks that lead to a master and, eventually, a doctoral degree and provide an ideal preparation for a career in science and academia. There are three programs: Neural and Behavioural Sciences, Neural Information Processing, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. The three graduate programs complement one another ideally and, thus, provide a markedly broad spectrum of neuroscience research and training opportunities in Tübingen. Teaching is entirely in English. Contact Graduate Training Centre of Neuroscience International Max Planck Research School University of Tübingen Österbergstr. 3 72074 Tübingen – Germany July 2018 | NEUROMAG | 21