CCC-Neuro: Joint laboratory for research on neuroinflammatory diseases

The German-Japanese project of the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Chiba University is establishing a research database and biorepository for patients with autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system and is setting up a neuroimaging laboratory at the Japanese partner site.

group photo taken at the inauguration of CCC-Neuro
© CCC-Neuro

Scientific background

The project focuses on two diseases that occur in both countries: First, multiple sclerosis (MS), the most common cause of chronic disability in young adults in Germany; on the other hand, a similar, but very rare and often more severe disease in Germany, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD). Both diseases often lead to severe neurological disability, for example a uni- or bilateral reduction in vision to complete blindness, motor disorders and impaired walking ability to bedriddenness, or symptoms that limit quality of life, such as cognitive disorders, pain and spasticity. This can lead to early disability and early retirement from work. MS is a common disease in western countries, but has been rare in Japan to date. In contrast, the NMOSD is rare in both countries, but slightly more common in Japan.

The comparison of possible environmental factors and possibly different disease courses in patients with neurological autoimmune diseases between the two countries and populations with different ethnic / genetic factors as well as climatic influences and dietary habits is a particularly promising approach to better understand the role of these factors in the development, course and prognosis of these diseases. A joint clinical data set, standardised protocols for the acquisition of image data to characterise the course of the disease (magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spinal cord, optical coherence tomography of the retina and optic nerve and movement analysis with a special infrared technique) and biosamples obtained according to standardised procedures are methodological requirements to allow for joint research projects that deal with environmental factors, course, response to therapies and prognosis of these two serious diseases.

group photo taken at the inauguration of CCC-Neuro
 CCC-Neuro inauguration © Makoto Kashiwabara, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Project and goals

The main objectives of the first funding phase (2017-2019) included

  • the setup of a standardised, electronic database,
  • the recruitment of a first patient cohort, and
  • the establishment of a research presence at the partner university in the form of a German-Japanese joint laboratory (CCC-Neuro - Charité Chiba Collaborative Laboratory for researching Chronic Neuroinflammation).

Aspects of the research structure

In the consolidation phase (2019-2022), the visibility of the research presence is planned to be enhanced, for example, through joint events in the German Science and Innovation Center (DWIH) and the AHK in Tokyo. By connecting German start-up companies to Japan, the Japanese interest in German Entrepreneurship might enable local market access. Specifically, technology transfer shall be promoted through the involvement of Berlin startups (Charité spin-offs) in the area of motion analysis (Motognosis) and later also retinal analysis (Nocturne). In addition to extending joint research, a joint application for an international graduate school at the German Research Foundation (DFG) is being prepared.

Thanks to thematic overlaps, the project also offers potential for cooperation with the other ongoing projects establishing a research presence in Japan (OCTmapp), where optical coherence tomography applications are developed. For CCC-Neuro, retinal applications of optical coherence tomography are important, which were not previously part of OCTmapp. In a joint project between Charité Berlin and Fraunhofer IPT, retinal changes caused by neurological diseases are to be investigated using polarisation-sensitive optical coherence tomography.

Contact

Coordinator
Prof. Dr. Friedemann Paul
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Abt. Neurologie
friedemann.paul@charite.de
Tel: +49 30 450 639705

Contact person in Japan
Prof. Satoshi Kuwabara
Chiba University, Graduate School of Medicine
Department of Neurology
kuwabara-s@faculty.chiba-u.jp
Tel: +81 43 222 7171

Funded in the context of the BMBF funding programme to establish joint research structures of German universities with partners in APRA. More information on APRA.