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Professor Zoltán Molnár has been awarded an Einstein Visiting Fellowship to Charité - University Medicine, Berlin. This award sees him join the dynamic Oxford | Berlin collaboration, a strategic research partnership that supports high quality joint research initiatives across all disciplines of its member institutions, of which Neuroscience is a major focus.

Zoltan Molnar delivering a lecture, front of Charite Berlin, Charite Berlin lecture theatre, and main atrium of Charite Berlin. © Professor Zoltán Molnár

Professor Zoltán Molnár will be conducting collaborative research at Charité - University Medicine as an Einstein Visiting Fellow over the next three years. He will be working with the research group run by Professor Britta Eickholt, Director of Institute and Director of Centrum and Group Leader Signaling mechanisms in brain development and disease, and become part of the Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure supported by a collaborative grant from the Einstein Stiftung.

The Eickholt and Molnár groups will join forces to test an important hypothesis about the involvement of an early generated, but largely transient, neuronal population in the cerebral cortex (subplate/layer6b) in autism and epilepsy. Professor Molnár said: "There is a very strong case for the idea that these conditions may result from over growth of the subplate/layer 6b neurons induced by overactivity of the mTOR pathway in these neurons during development." Professor Eickholt is an expert in mouse genetic models of mTOR pathway and Professor Molnár specialises in early cortical circuits with special attention to subplate/layer 6b neurons. Their collaborative work will directly examine in mouse genetic models whether the miswiring of the earliest cortical circuits with subplate is induced by dysregulation of subplate cell death and synaptic re-wiring by over activated mTOR. It will test whether mTOR over activation will lead to a hypersensitive, overactive and hyperexcitatory layer 6b in the mature brain with behavioural changes. According to Professor Molnár: "These are key questions in understanding the etiology of autism and epilepsy."

The research will also test whether we can prevent the miswiring of the subplate induced by dysregulation of subplate cell death and synaptic re-wiring by over activated mTOR by administering the mTOR antagonist, rapamycin, during the first two weeks of development, a period during which the subplate neurons undergo apoptosis and connectivity changes. Professor Molnár said: "The proposed work is in basic circuit analysis in mouse, but it has very general biological and clinical implications in the understanding and possible treatment of autism and epilepsy."

Professor Molnár has already enjoyed a strong and sustained collaboration with Victor Tarabykin’s laboratory based at Charité, Berlin. The support from Einstein Stiftung will establish new collaborations with Britta Eickholt, Matthew Larkum, Timothy Zolnik and Christian Rosenmund from Berlin, DPAG's Vladyslav Vyazovskiy and Ed Mann and Andrew Sharott from the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford. Previous interactions between DPAG and Charité took place through a successful mini symposium organised by Professor Molnár, held in November 2019 at the DPAG Sherrington Building on “Mechanisms of synaptic release and secretion” and “Mechanisms of Brain State Control".

The project will establish a superb core in developmental and circuit neuroscience with leading groups. The Einstein Fellowship to Professor Molnár will also catalyse further long-term relationship between Berlin and Oxford while pursuing first class research on a highly timely and exciting project. 

Director of Oxford in Berlin Professor Alastair Buchan said: "Oxford in Berlin is so very pleased to welcome Zoltán to Berlin, (now known as the “City of Brains”) and the Charité, which in collaboration with Humboldt University, hosts the Neurocure Cluster, a part of the Berlin University Alliance. Neuroscience is a major focus of the Oxford | Berlin collaboration which covers the Arts and Humanities, Social Science and Science and Health and has now created a new joint centre for Advanced Studies. What really matters however is people and having Zoltán given this Einstein Foundation funding, I hope will see the start of increased mobility between Oxford and Berlin in the years to come."

 

More information about the collaboration can be found on the Berlin University Alliance website News item "Einstein Foundation Berlin supports fellowships at the Charité, among other things"

More information about the Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure can be found on the Berlin University Alliance's NeuroCure page.

More information on the Oxford–Berlin Research Partnership can be found on the Oxford Centre in Berlin website.

More information on the Einstein Fellowship can be found on the Einstein Center for Neurosciences of the Charité website.

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