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LMU and Elsevier honour junior researchers in neuro- and molecular biology

Munich, 11/25/2010

New insights into Alzheimer’s disease, a novel mechanism that regulates nerve cell survival in the brain, elucidation of the structural requirements for the attachment of specific sugars to proteins, and an increase in the power of a method for the analysis of neural circuitry. We owe these recent advances in Biosciences to the research carried out by four junior researchers based in academic and non-academic research institutes in Munich. Their investigations have now earned for each of them one of four prizes awarded for outstanding publications in the fields of molecular biology and neuroscience by the Munich Center for Neurosciences (MCN) and the Graduate Center-LMU, together with science publisher Elsevier. The members of the jury found that each of the prize winners, two doctoral and two post-doctoral researchers had made “a significant contribution to scientific knowledge” in their respective fields.

In offering the prizes, the MCN and the Graduate Center-LMU wish to support and encourage budding young scientists at LMU and other institutions in the Munich region. For the past four years Elsevier has sponsored similar awards for junior researchers around the world. This year’s collaboration with LMU marks the first time that Elsevier has extended its scheme to Germany.

About the Winners

Dr. Jovica Ninkovic of the Institute for Stem Cell Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München takes the LMU/Scopus Neuroscience Award. During the past two years Dr. Ninkovic  has uncovered a novel mechanism that ensures the survival of a specific type of nerve cell in adult mammalian brains. His study, entitled “The transcription factor Pax6 regulates survival of dopaminergic olfactory bulb neurons via crystallin alphaA“, impressed the jury members both in terms of its scientific content and its clearly articulated structure. The LMU/Scopus Prize, worth 5000 Euros, is funded equally by MCN and Elsevier.

The winner of the Scopus Young Neuroscientist Award is Hongbo Jia of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technical University of Munich. By imaging nerve cells by means of two-photon fluorescence microscopy while simultaneously recording their electrical activity, Hongbo Jia has been able to enhance the rate of acquisition and analysis of electrophysiological data from intact brains. His study, entitled “Dendritic organization of sensory input to cortical neurons in vivo“, has provided new insights into the functional organization of neurons in the visual cortex. The 2500-Euro prize is sponsored by Elsevier.

Dr. Tobias Bittner of the Faculty of Medicine at LMU receives the Brain Navigator Award for a study entitled “Microglial CX3CR1 knockout prevents neuron loss in an Alzheimer´s disease mouse model”. The project involved the use of two-photon fluorescence in mouse mutants created by targeted gene knockout. The discovery referred to in the title of the published work marks a significant advance in our understanding of the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. In essence, Bittner and his colleagues were able to show that defective communication between neurons and microglia cells plays an important role in the nerve cell loss that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease. This prize, worth 1500 Euros, is funded by Elsevier.

The LMU Young Life Scientist Award goes to Dorota Zielinska of the MPI for Biochemistry and LMU. By means of a highly innovative application of high-resolution mass spectroscopy, Dorota Zielinska and her colleagues succeeded in defining the structural features that characterize sites of N-glycosylation (the attachment of sugars to amino groups) in proteins. The results have been published in a paper entitled “Precision mapping of an in vivo N-glycoproteome reveals rigid topological and sequence constraints“, and they solve some long-standing problems, while posing new questions about the process of glycosylation. This prize, worth 2.500 Euros, is sponsored by LMU’s GraduateCenter


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