Neurons must find their place in the developing brain

Silvia Cappello receives prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant

March 17, 2022

Neurobiologist Silvia Cappello from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry has received a € 2 million grant from the EU for her groundbreaking research. Thousands of researchers across Europe applied for ERC Consolidator Grants, which allow mid-career scientists to consolidate their research group and promising, pioneering work, but only 12% are successful. One of them is Silvia Cappello who focuses on neurogenesis and neuronal migration in the developing brain. Newly generated neuronal cells must migrate to their proper position during this phase. If they do not, neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and severe epilepsies occur.

With the support of the grant Cappello will focus on extracellular signals regulating brain development. They are key players that are altered in many NDDs. With her team, Cappello found that many genes associated with NDDs encode for proteins that are loaded into extracellular vesicles (EVs).

In order to learn more about the role of EVs during the brain development, the neurobiologist will concentrate on their physiological function. To do so, she will combine transcriptomic, proteomic, imaging and functional analyses of EVs derived from human cerebral organoids. This will help to answer fundamental questions, such as how different cells communicate with each other at different times and over different distances in the highly dynamic process of brain development.

The study of NDDs in human models such as cerebral organoids will allow the identification of pathologically altered cellular cross-talk mediated by EVs. This knowhow of the cellular processes governing EV´s biology will provide the basis to better understand novel mechanisms underlying brain development and NDDs. This knowledge will be critical for the exploration of new deliverable compounds for the therapy of NDDs.


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