Nicolai Savaskan’s laboratory seeks to understand those factors that are crucial for the growth advantage of tumors in the brain. Our lab was among the first unravelling tumor-induced neuronal cell death. In particular, tumors are toxic to neurons and thereby induce cytotoxic brain swelling.
Identification of tumor-derived factors and in particular secreted factors promise the potential to be also assessable for inhibitors and therapeutic agents. Eventually, these findings assist in translating bench data into new effective therapeutic approaches.
The laboratory has also begun to consider the role of developmental genes that appear dysregulated under disease conditions. A promising example of ‘turning back the clock’ genes is PRG3 that we first identified in the course of neuroplasticity research in 2003 (Savaskan et al., 2004). During development, PRG3 is restricted to the critical postnatal phase and diminishes during maturation. However, many cancer cells are high PRG3 expressors. We generated transgenic PRG3 mice with high PRG3 levels under the control of a neuron-specific promoter. These investigations aim to uncover imbalances and distinct thresholds of developmental and plasticity-related genes in CNS diseases.