Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) grant for CNCR teams

18 June 2019

Together with clinicians and researchers from Utrecht, Nijmegen and Twente, CNCR researchers Verhage, Cornelisse, Meijer (FGA) and Linkenkaer-Hansen (INF) received a €1,8M grant to improve personalized medicine for children with autism.

The prevalence of autism in children is increasing but effective treatment is lacking. This is because different forms of autism exist with different (biological) underlying causes. In this project new methods will be developed to identify biological causes for autism and to find the best matching therapies, by analyzing specific brain characteristics of each individual child. A novel EEG biomarker, developed by the team of Linkenkaer-Hansen, will be used to group children with ASD based on the balance between excitation and inhibition in their brain. The team of Cornelisse and Verhage will analyze the excitation/inhibition balance at the cellular level in in-vitro networks of neurons from the same children. They will make use of advanced stem cell technology, that was recently established at FGA, to generate human neurons from a skin sample from the same individuals that were analyzed by EEG. This will allow to measure synaptic and cellular phenotypes for each individual and to test the effect of different FDA approved drugs on these phenotypes. For each individual the two most effective drugs will be subsequently tested in a clinical trial. In collaboration with FGA, the Twente group will develop a lab-on-a-chip approach to increase the throughput of these cellular assays. By combining clinical diagnosis with novel EEG analysis and measurements in cultured neurons in every individual child, the multi-disciplinary team hopes to determine the optimal treatment before it is prescribed. This approach will lead to improved personalized medicine with a higher chance on success and less side effects, which might be applied to other brain disorders in the future.

The consortium consists of Dr. Hilgo Bruining (H.Bruining@umcutrecht.nl, UMC Utrecht), Prof. Dr. Matthijs Verhage, Dr. Niels Cornelisse, Dr. Marieke Meijer and Dr. Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen (m.verhage@vu.nl, l.n.cornelisse@vu.nl, klaus.linkenkaer@cncr.vu.nl, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & VU Medical Center), Dr. Niels Tas, Dr. Séverine Le Gac and Prof. Dr. Han Gardeniers (n.r.tas@utwente.nl , University of Twente), and Prof. Dr. Gert Jan van der Wilt, Dr. Bas Stunnenberg and MSc Hans Groenewoud (Radboud University Medical Center)