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Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory

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Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory

Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory

NDAL was founded in 2005 at the Molecular Biology and Genetics Department of the Bosphorus University with the support of the Suna & İnan Kıraç Foundation.

NDAL is the first example of academic collaboration between a state university and a private foundation in Turkey. Prestigious Kıraç donation supports NDAL in developing neuroscience in Turkey and becoming a reference laboratory in neurodegenerative disease biology. Aside from the Kıraç donation, NDAL is financed by the Bosphorus University Research Fund, Tübitak, DPT and a series of international projects, and it is considered as an expert center in molecular diagnosis of genetic and complex diseases in not only Turkey, but also internationally.

Using its experience in genetics to provide molecular diagnosis services for a series of neurological diseases, NDAL is the only reference laboratory in neurodegenerative disease in Turkey. The DNA bank at NDAL, which holds samples of the most common diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's Diseases, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Myotonic Dystrophy, and Ataxias, has a very significant potential for research. The priority area of research of the laboratory is to understand motor neuron (especially ALS) and similar neurodegenerative diseases and the molecular mechanisms that cause these diseases; understanding the mechanisms triggering the neurodegeneration process would pave the way for long-awaited molecular treatments. Today, the entire human genome can now be read thanks to the new methods developed; this information has led to the discovery of new genes and with each gene, different mechanisms; thus revealing that ALS and other neurodegenerative processes are more complex than predicted and this has changed the paradigms in the biology of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular ALS. We have now understood that, in these diseases with very complex structures, we have to think in terms of individual medicine rather than a single disease, single drug objective.

NDAL has many national and international collaborations. Successful students of Bosphorus University's MBG department are ensured to study Ph.D. at Brown through the fund created as part of the agreement with the Neuroscience and Molecular Cell Biology programs at Brown University. In addition, joint studies are available with the Medical Schools of the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University. The aim of these collaborations is to improve neurobiology, which is a very recent discipline in Turkey, and to establish a center of excellence in especially neurodegeneration researches. NDAL's collaborations in Europe are with the laboratories specialized in ALS and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Prof. Peter Andersen of Umea University, Sweden and Georg Auburger of Frankfurt University.

Under the leadership of Nazlı Başak, NDAL currently has one postdoc researcher, three Ph.D., five Master's students, two laboratory specialists and two executive assistants. In addition, a large number of undergraduate students and interns have been involved in projects as volunteers. NDAL's research subject is the biology of ALS and mechanisms that cause neurodegeneration; while NDAL's areas of interest can be summarized as follows:

• Finding new mutations and genes in ALS through genetic and genomic methods

• The effects of new genes and mechanisms on the formation of ALS

• Drosophila as a neurodegenerative disease model (in collaboration with Brown University)

• Cortico-spinal motor neuron development (in collaboration with Harvard University)

• Developing biomarkers for effective mechanisms in the PARK4 locus in Parkinson's disease, alpha synuclein protein and early diagnosis (in association with Frankfurt University)

• Developing effective mechanisms in the Spino-cerebellar Ataxia 2, SCA2 protein and biomarkers (together with Frankfurt University)

• Application of bioinformatics and system biology in neurological diseases (in collaboration with Umass)

NDAL's scientific advisors are Prof. Robert H. Brown (University of Massachusetts) and Prof. Jeffrey D. Macklis (Harvard University). These two scientists visit the laboratory once a year and follow up with the studies. The meetings with them are called 'Brainstorming Meetings'. The last one was made in August 2013.

www.alsturkiye.org/