Maria Swanberg, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
The Neurodegeneration and Inflammation Genetics (NIG) Unit is focused on studying the complex genetics behind neurodegenerative disorders, with emphasis on Parkinson's disease. Our research spans from laboratory models to human disease and by combining molecular genetic analyses, in vitro and in vivo functional studies with clinical studies, our goal is to identify genetic risk factors relevant for human disease.
In order to study the processes underlying neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation in the CNS, we employ rodent in vivo models reflecting different aspects of disease initiation and progression. The functional outcome is measured by behavioral tests, which mimic clinically relevant measures. These are then coupled to local tissue responses and genetic analyses. Molecular biology techniques such as expression analysis and histology are used to characterize the tissue responses, while bioinfomatics and positional cloning are employed to identify candidate genes.
We have generated unique congenic strains with defined genetic regions transferred from one inbred strain to another. These regions were identified by linkage analyses as linked to neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation, respectively. The use of congenic strains enables studies on a controlled number of genetic factors, with impact on clinically relevant phenotypes. The aim is to identify underlying genetic polymorphisms, and to explore the effect and impact on disease.
We also work with transgenic models to study progressive neurodegenerative processes and with in vitro models ranging from rodent primary cultures to human cell lines.
In collaboration with the clinical node within MultiPark, the NIG unit is currently establishing a biobank sample collection from Parkinson patients and controls for genetic and functional analyses. In addition, our group develops human in vitro models to validate and perform functional studies of candidate genes.