Ronald van Kesteren awarded with ZonMW Top Grant

14 February 2012

Proposal entitled “Neuronal regeneration: from gene networks to gene therapy‚ awarded with €675.000 to invest over the course of 5 years. Project runs in collaboration with the group of Joost Verhaagen from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN).

Ronald van Kesteren is principal investigator of CNCR’s Genes and Plasticity Research Team. He and his team investigate the regeneration of axons after injury. This involves molecular mechanisms that are capable of restoring signal propagation in the nervous system, after axonal damage has occurred. Axon injury can have devastating results, present in patients of stroke or paraplegia.

Regeneration Associated Genes and hub-genes
Injury to axons triggers the expression of RAGs: Regeneration Associated Genes. Expression of individual RAGs in neurons of which axons are damaged, has little effect on actual axon regeneration. Therefore, Van Kesteren suggests in his awarded proposal to identify the key transcription factors or hub-genes in the RAG network (figure 1). These hub-genes are hypothesised to coordinate expression of the entire network, which enhances axon regeneration.
Van Kesteren: “By means of computational methods and functional studies on cultured neurons we came up with a shortlist of 20 RAG transcription factors of interest. For this study we seek to discover combinations of those that serve regulatory functions within the network and will be of future therapeutic interest.‚

The project runs in collaboration with the lab of Joost Verhaagen at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience. Verhaagen’s group developed viral methods for delivering genes of interest to animal models of axonal injury. This allows testing the results obtained by computer- and cell studies, in vivo. 

Two vacancies for PhD candidates
With the grant money, Van Kesteren plans to hire two PhD candidates to join his research team and work on the project (vacancies). For more information please contact Ronald van Kesteren.