NCCR Neuro - Neural Plasticity and Repair (2001-2013)

NCCR Director: Prof. Hanns Möhler (2001-2005), Martin Schwab (2005 - 2013)

Home Institution: University of Zurich

Research in the NCCR and major results

The central goal of the NCCR Neuro was to better understand the mechanisms and causes of neurological diseases and to alleviate the suffering of patients by designing and testing novel therapies for the future. After 12 years, an abundance of key novel insights were obtained in basic science which gave rise to new therapeutic approaches. Successful translations into clinical trials were achieved in the cases of Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, and robot-assisted neurorehabilitation.

The research structure of the NCCR was determined by its overall topic, Neural Plasticity and Repair. From its inception, eight projects, usually consisting of basic and clinical neuroscientists and frequently an engineering or industrial partner, focused mainly on neural plasticity (stem cells, neuroprotection, plasticity and regeneration) and new strategies for the repair of central nervous system damage (Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury). Projects in neuro-oncology and neurorehabilitation engineering were added during the course of the NCCR.

Important advances were made in the understanding of brain functions and disease pathology. They included the identification of signaling pathways in neural stem cell fate determination, the formation of new circuits following spinal cord and brain injury as a basis of functional restoration after lesions, the discovery of the presence of antibodies with neuroprotective potential in healthy volunteers, the identification of new inflammatory mediators and cascades in multiple sclerosis and prion protein diseases, and important new insights into the function and plasticity of the animal and human sensory-motor cortexes.