The StratNeuro addresses fundamental questions in neuroscience and builds on leading expertise at Karolinska Institutet, Umeå University and KTH. The programme brings together researchers from basic and clinical sciences.
- Basic mechanisms supporting motor and cognitive functions: The goals of this part of the programme are to define cellular and molecular mechanisms that are critical for the development and function of neural networks in the spinal cord and basal ganglia; to use these mechanisms as a means to induce the repair of damaged circuits after spinal cord injury and Parkinson disease; to study the normal development and aging of human cognition; and to develop new training principles for cognitive and motor functions.
- Neurodevelopmental disorders: The programme focuses on brain disorders affecting cognitive and motor functions early in childhood (such as ADHD and autism), and later in adolescence or young adulthood (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders). The goals are to describe endophenotypes across diagnostic entities based on cognitive function and new biomarkers; to identify susceptibility genes and environmental factors; to identify genes that control cortical development; to develop and study animal models as a tool to reveal the underlying pathophysiology; to develop new intervention principles, and to implement the research results in clinical practice.
- Neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases: This part of the programme focuses on diseases occurring in mid and late adulthood such as Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. The goals are to identify biomarkers using longitudinal functional and structural imaging studies combined with metabolomic, proteomic, genetic and genomic analyses (where such analyses are to be correlated with measurements of cognitive functions); to unravel the basic mechanisms of nerve cell death and inflammation; and to develop novel drug targets and methods for regenerative replacement therapies. In vitro and in vivo models and our extensive human biobanks are used for these studies.
Impact on society
Burden of disease
Brain disorders are among the most common causes of disability in high income countries. The European Brain Council published a report in 2006 stating that 1/3 of all people in Europe will be affected by cognitive and motor dysfunctions during their lifetime. Such dysfunctions not only lead to the suffering of patients and family, they also result in enormous costs for society (€ 386 billion in Europe). In addition to direct medical costs, there are large costs for supporting people who are not able to take care of themselves, and indirect costs (such as those for special schools, sick leave and unemployment).
Life expectancy for persons with neuro-developmental disorders (NDDs) is similar to that of the population in general, and therefore the societal support is required for a long time. Life expectancy is increasing, and the incidences of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease increase exponentially in higher ages, and this means that these diseases will lead to higher societal costs in the future. The number of persons in Sweden with dementia is ~150,000, MS ~14,000 and Parkinson ~20,000. The annual cost for dementia in Sweden has been estimated to be € 5 billion per year. A review of the current level of resource allocation to brain research in the EU showed that increased efforts in research, health care and teaching are required to meet the huge cost and burden of brain disorders.
The research will have a great impact on the burden of disease for society and afflicted individuals. It will enhance the autonomy of victims, lessen the suffering of patients and families, and reduce the costs for society. For example, by delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by 5 years through early intervention, we would reduce the prevalence of the disease by 50%.
Collaboration between academia and industry
The aim is to make neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet an attractive partner for industry, allowing it to grow and prosper in Sweden. This will be achieved by for example strengthening the infrastructure for clinical trials, and by characterizing patients with new multi-level biomarkers, making it possible to stratify patient groups and to follow the effect of treatment.