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Molecular Physiology

Head: Gerald Seifert, PhD

The research group Molecular Physiology at the Institute of Cellular Neurosciences focuses on the functional and molecular characterisation of ion channels, membrane receptors and transporters in astrocytes and NG2-glial cells of mouse brain and living human brain tissue neurosurgically resected from epilepsy patients. Combined state-of-the-art electrophysiological methods and transcript analyses are applied to freshly isolated cells and cells in brain slices to compare properties of glial cells with those of adjacent neurons. Fast application of neurotransmitters, blockers and modulators is employed, allowing for quantitative analyses of very rapid receptor responses in a milliseconds range. The goal of our structure-function analyses is a better understanding of the impact of glial cells on brain signalling.

Our research is centred on glial cells in the hippocampus. In addition we investigate radial glial cells in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus which are endogenous stem cells for adult neurogenesis. Moreover, comparative analyses are performed using glial cells in different brain region, e.g. the thalamus, to define the impact of glial heterogeneity on neuron-glia signalling. Another main focus of our work is on the analysis of epilepsy-dependent alterations of glial properties. Using mouse models of temporal lobe epilepsy and living human brain tissue from epilepsy patients we address the question whether dysfunctions of glial cells are causative of epilepsy. The goal here is to develop new approaches for alternative treatments of this and other neurological diseases.
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