The role of autophagy as a health-maintaining mechanism in the brain

Prinicipal Investigator

Scientific interest within the context of the graduate college:

My research group is primarily active in the field of experimental and translational neuropathology and neuroscience. The focus is on understanding the impact of the immune system on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Starting from cell culture and animal models of defined neurological diseases, we try to validate basic results from animal models in the human system with the aim to find new approaches for diagnostics and therapy of neurodegenerative diseases. To this end, we have also established a biobank that allows access to tissue from patients with various neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc.).

Project description:

Autophagy is a universal and highly relevant mechanism by which every cell degrades unwanted waste products. Interestingly, autophagy decreases with age and in neurodegenerative diseases. We have shown that several inflammatory signaling pathways are modulated by autophagy1 (Freitag et al. submitted). One way to activate autophagy is supplementation with the autophagy activator spermidine, which leads to a prolongation of lifespan on organism and cell level and has neuroprotective properties. Therefore, a possible protective effect of spermidine will be investigated in immune cells of the brain with a focus on the immune response in the aging context.

Application details


  1. Houtman J, Freitag K, Gimber N, Schmoranzer J, Heppner FL, Jendrach M. Beclin1-driven autophagy modulates the inflammatory response of microglia via NLRP3. EMBO J. 2019; 38(4):e99430. doi: 10.15252/embj.201899430.