• 11/23/2012

Highly endowed research prize for Prof. Thomas Misgeld

New dynamics in Alzheimer's disease research

Professor Thomas Misgeld (Technische Universität München) and Prof. Boris Schmidt (Technische Universität Darmstadt) have been awarded the Alzheimer's Research Prize of the Frankfurt-based Hans und Ilse Breuer Stiftung. Each receives one-half of the 100,000-euro endowment. The award honors Misgeld for his research on the development and degeneration of neuronal connections in the brain. His discoveries could be of great importance for therapeutic approaches in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Misgeld - Image: Eckert/Heddergott, TU München

Nerve cells communicate with each other over extensions called axons, some of which are very long. In the brain, vast numbers of neurons must be correctly interconnected by axons, and defective linkages need to be broken. Thomas Misgeld (b. 1971) investigates this extremely complicated procedure in the brains of mice and zebrafish. To do that, he has developed laser-assisted microscopy techniques that can make mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, visible. These techniques also make it possible to observe the transport of mitochondria through the long axons and to measure the speed of their movement precisely.  

Misgeld's research results are of great relevance for understanding the normal functioning of the healthy brain. In addition, they can shed light on many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In such diseases, "traffic jams" develop in the axonal transport of mitochondria, leading to the dying-off of axons. Among Misgeld's discoveries is that these destructive processes can be initiated by the extremely reactive and highly toxic substances known as radicals. He also has discovered that this chain of events can be stopped by "radical catchers" and is reversible.

Thomas Misgeld studied medicine at TUM, received his PhD in 1999 at the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology and, with funding from the Emmy Noether program of the German Research Foundation (DFG), spent six years as a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis (200-2004) and at Harvard University (2004-2006). From 2006 to 2009, he led a Sofja Kovalevskaja research group at TUM in the Friedrich Schiedel Institute for Neurosciences. Since 2009 he has been a professor at the TUM Chair for Biomolecular Sensors, which was established with support from the Excellence Cluster CIPSM, the Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich. He is a Hans Fischer Tenure Track Fellow at the TUM Institute for Advanced Study (TUM-IAS). Since 2012, he is co-spokesperson for the Excellence Cluster SyNergy (Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology), which was jointly proposed by TUM and LMU Munich within the framework of the Excellence Initiative.

Misgeld has previously received several important research prizes, including the Wyeth MS Young Investigator Award (2004), the Robert Feulgen Prize (2005), the Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize (2006), and the Schilling Prize (2007).

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Technical University of Munich

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