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Institute of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology (IMBB)
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  Title Development and exploitation of novel animal models for human neurodegenerative diseases and ageing
  Group Nematode Molecular Genetics, IMBB
  Researcher Dr. Nektarios Tavernarakis
  Abstract The laboratory has developed and characterized models of human neurodegenerative disorders using the simple nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an experimental organism. C. elegans is a widely appreciated, powerful platform in which to study important biological mechanisms related to human health and ageing. More than 70% of human disease genes have homologues in the C. elegans genome, and essential aspects of mammalian cell biology, neurobiology and development are faithfully recapitulated in this organism. The disease models we have developed, coupled with the unique features of C. elegans, which greatly facilitate drug studies, hold promise for both deciphering disease pathogenesis and formulating educated and effective therapeutic interventions.
  Description We are genetically and molecularly deciphering neurodegeneration in the Caenorhabditis elegans. Towards this end we have identified several novel genes that are required for neurodegenerative cell death. The corresponding gene products constitute attractive pharmacological targets for therapeutic reversal of neurodegeneration and senescent decline. In addition, we have developing cutting-edge tools and resources that will facilitate modeling of human pathologies and ageing in C. elegans. In addition to advancing our understanding of animal development and physiology, nematode disease models can be exploited in large scale drug screening approaches aimed at identifying compounds of pharmaceutical value that counter pathogenesis.

Drug discovery and drug target identification are two intimately linked facets of intervention strategies aimed at effectively combating pathological conditions in humans. Simple model organisms provide attractive platforms for devising and streamlining efficient drug discovery and drug target identification methodologies. C. elegans has emerged as a particularly convenient and versatile tool that can be exploited to achieve these goals. Although C. elegans is a relatively modern addition to the arsenal of model organisms, its biology has already been investigated to an exceptional level. This, coupled with effortless handling and a notable low cost of cultivation and maintenance, allows seamless implementation of high-throughput drug screening approaches, as well as in-depth genetic and biochemical studies of the molecular pathways targeted by specific drugs. C. elegans is a model organism with significant advantages towards the identification of molecular drug targets and the development of drug screening and drug evaluation protocols.
  Current development phase The technology is field-tested and already available for demonstration (laboratory level).
  Intellectual property rights: Unique Know-How, Unique genetic and molecular tools.
  Type of collaboration sought Technical Co-operation, License agreement, Clinical applications partners.