Two industry-leading researchers have been awarded over €1 million to collaborate on frontotemporal dementia research.
The frontotemporal dementia endeavour will involve Dorothee Dormann, a molecular biologist professor at Mainz University, and Rosa Rademakers, a geneticist Professor at Antwerp University. Professor Rademakers is the head of the VIB centre for Molecular Neurology at Antwerp and has been awarded the €1m Generet Award for Rare Diseases from the King Baudouin Foundation. Professor Dormann, part of Rademakers’ research network, will receive €200,000 throughout the next four years for research conducted at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).
Professor Dorothee Dormann commented: “I’m very fond of the international collaboration on these rare diseases, and I’m excited about our cooperation with Rosa Rademakers, who is an outstanding international expert.”
Furthering frontotemporal dementia research
Although the project will investigate a vast range of rare forms of dementia, it will primarily focus on frontotemporal dementia, an umbrella term that encompasses a group of brain disorders that predominantly affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia affects people relatively early in life, usually when they are only 40 to 50 years old, is incurable, and patients typically die within the first ten years of their diagnosis. Around one in 5,000 people are living with frontotemporal dementia, a condition that significantly impacts their families.
Rosa Rademakers has devoted her career to investigating the causes of frontotemporal dementia, receiving worldwide acclaim for her research at the Mayo Clinic in the US, where she worked for 14 years. She returned to Belgium in 2019 to lead the VIB Center for Molecular Neurology at Antwerp University, the place she received her PhD in 2004.
Dorothee Dormann is an internationally recognised molecular neurodegeneration researcher who, in 2021, was appointed as a Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and an Adjunct Director at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz. She received the Alzheimer Research Award of the Hans and Ilse Breuer Foundation in 2021.
The substantial funding acquired from the Generet Award will enable the researchers to investigate an especially rare form of frontotemporal dementia in which there is an accumulation of the FUS protein – an area in which Professor Dormann is an expert, in addition to other similar proteins.
Professor Dormann said: “We aim to use the funding from the Generet Award to find out why FUS accumulates in patients’ brains and to understand its precise role as well the roles of related proteins and biomolecules that interact with FUS.”
Professor Dormann’s research group aims to isolate the protein deposits from deceased patients to examine other proteins that are deposited there alongside the FUS protein. Furthermore, the team will analyse the chemical modifications of these proteins and are hopeful about attaining groundbreaking insights into the formation of harmful protein deposits and the underlying molecular mechanisms of frontotemporal dementia.