Studying neurodegenerative diseases through the eye of molecular biology

The Project

Neurodegenerative disorders are common diseases that affect our society. They are characterized by the loss of neurons within the brain and/or spinal cord, which results in a progressive deterioration of the function of the central and peripheral nervous system. Nowadays, no cure exists for these diseases. Neurodegeneration can affect individuals of all ages, but becomes increasingly frequent with age. With the ageing of the general population, the prevalence of these disorders is expected to rise dramatically in the next few decades. Some researchers at the CRG aim to decipher the mechanisms underlying these diseases with the hope of finding a cure someday. Help us to better understand neurodegeneration!

Neurodegenerative diseases primarily affect neurons. As these cells have no ability to regenerate themselves, losing them has a big impact on the nervous system. Many of the neurodegenerative diseases are caused by a mutation in a particular protein, which causes the aggregation of it. As these aggregates start to accumulate in neurons, cell toxicity increases until it produces cell death. Why do the mutated proteins aggregate? Why the aggregates are toxic for the cell? What can be done to avoid their formation and, therefore, stop the progression of the disease? These are some of the questions you will focus on during your stay in the laboratory.

In this project you will learn to use yeast as a model to study two different situations: one corresponding to a healthy patient neuron and other to a diseased patient neuron. You will be given some hints and, by literature searching, you will have to guess the disease you will be studying during the following days. New concepts and methodologies in molecular biology will be introduced to you in order to conduct your own research project with the aim to better understand the disease. During your investigation, you will generate real data, will undergo the analysis and will take your own conclusions. Moreover, possible approaches for future treatments will be discussed. Each of you will work in a real research environment, share knowledge and tackle technical problems within the scientific team. We hope to awake your passion for science and entice you into a research career.

Do you accept the challenge? Do you want to answer you own questions? If so, apply for this project!

Matching profiles

Biology, genetics, biomedicine, biotechnology, bioinformatics

Learning objectives
  • To familiarize yourself with the working environment and with the basic equipment and techniques in a molecular biology research laboratory.
  • To know, understand and work with the different genetic vectors and research models systems that are commonly used for studying neurodegenerative disease.
  • To produce, interpret and analyse scientific data critically.
Required materials

Labcoat, laptop

Coordinator of the project
Cèsar Sierra

Cèsar Sierra

  • Graduated on Biotechnology at University of Barcelona (Spain) in 2016.
  • Bachelor Thesis at German Cancer Research Center (Germany) in 2016.
  • Master’s Degree in Genetics at Paris Diderot University (France) in 2017.
  • PhD student working on understanding the contribution of epigenetic alterations to the transcriptional alterations in Down syndrome at CRG (Spain).
Isabel Espejo

Isabel Espejo

  • Graduated on Biotechnology at University of Pablo de Olavide (Spain) in 2016.
  • Bachelor Thesis at Andalusian Center for Developmental Biology (Spain) in 2016.
  • Master’s Degree in Genetics at Paris Diderot University (France) in 2017.
  • Master Thesis at Institute Curie (France) in 2016.
  • PhD student working on understanding the regulation of Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 in adult stem cells and cancer.
The center

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) is an international biomedical research institute of excellence, created in December 2000. The mission of the CRG is to discover and advance knowledge for the benefit of society, public health and economic prosperity.