While genetic factors play an important role in the etiology of brain diseases there is now accumulating evidence that the presence of a healthy vs. diseased state critically depends on the interaction between genes and environment. Epigenetic mechanisms of gene-expression are key regulatory processes that mediate genome-environment interactions. Thus, targeting epigenetic mechanisms is currently discussed as a novel and promising therapeutic avenue to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Our group has pioneered this novel field of neuro-epigenetics that investigates the role of genome-environment interactions and epigenome plasticity during the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases.
We are especially interested in the mechanisms that underlie Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Similarly, the impact of protective environmental factors such as physical and cognitive exercise on the onset and progression of AD phenotypes is studied. Our particular aim is to identify epigenetic drug targets and to establish epigenome changes as suitable biomarker of disease progression and therapy. To this end we employ animal models and relevant patient material. Our research program on Alzheimer’s diseases is embedded within the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) with the Göttingen site having a specific focus on epigenetics in Alzheimer’s disease.