Stem Cell and Developmental Biology

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Nuber

The goal of our research is to contribute to a better understanding and the development of improved therapies for brain diseases that affect children: pediatric brain tumors and developmental disorders.

Translational neuroscience research is particularly challenging for two major reasons: The complexity of the nervous system and the inaccessibility of human diseased cell and tissue material. To overcome the latter problem, we generate and apply stem cell-based disease models.

In our brain tumor projects, we study how neural stem and progenitor cells turn into tumorigenic cells and apply this knowledge to identify and test novel therapeutic agents that inhibit brain tumor growth. In our projects on developmental brain disorders, we investigate the cellular effects of mutations in certain disease genes. Among these genes are SMARCB1 and MECP2. SMARCB1 codes for a chromatin remodeling complex component and mutations in this gene can predispose to brain tumors or can cause Coffin-Siris syndrome. The MECP2 gene encodes a protein that binds to methylated DNA and mutations in this gene cause Rett syndrome.

We aim to translate insight gained by this research into improved therapeutic approaches utilizing human induced pluripotent stem cells as a disease model.