Thoughts on last year’s nEUROskeleton meeting

I really enjoyed the nEUROskeleton meeting in Brussels last year. What I found most interesting was the emerging realisation that the neuronal cytoskeleton with its “systemic” properties is a prime target for therapeutic intervention not only in regeneration and in preventing degeneration, but even in psychiatric disorders. As was pointed out at the meeting this is, for example, illustrated by the fact that most if not all genes involved in schizophrenia are regulators of microtubules, or by the finding that microtubule stabilising drugs can alleviate schizophrenia-like syndromes in mice lacking a microtubule stabilising protein. To me this made a lot of sense. Changes in nervous system performance cannot be attributed to properties of individual synapses or neurons. The system is dynamic and flexible and huge (in the order of 1014 synapses). To modulate its function it might very well be necessary to slightly modify thousands of neurons and synapses at the same time by targeting components common to all neurons such as the cytoskeleton.

On the other hand, interfering with something as universal as the cytoskeleton appears to be a rather broad and indiscriminative approach. In addition, I think at this point we don’t yet understand what exactly we are doing when we change, for example, microtubule stability. If I am not mistaken, more selective interventions aimed at subgroups of CNS neurons and targeting, for example, mechanisms of interneuronal communication have been shown to be successful in the past.

Nevertheless, I think that the renewed focus in the neuronal cytoskeleton with its “systemic” properties is a fresh and innovative way to look at the CNS. This will definitely open new avenues towards our understanding how the CNS works in health and disease and will lead to new strategies of therapeutic interventions. As indicated above, there is already compelling evidence that this holds great potential.

Friedrich Propst

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The remit of this blog

This blog will be a forum for Researchers from Europe and beyond sharing an interest in the role and regulation of the cytoskeleton during brain development, function, regeneration and degeneration, both in health and disease. More will follow explaining the rationale, timeliness, importance and vast opportunities of this kind of research.

Upcoming meetings:

  1. The microtubule cytoskeleton in development and disease, Barcelona, Spain. 18-20 March, 2013; LINK
  2. Growing to Extremes: Cell Biology and Pathology of Axons, Granlibakken Resort, Tahoe City, California, USA, March 10—15, 2013; LINK
  3. Batsheva Workshop on Spatial Challenges in Neuronal Cell Biology, Lopatie Conference Center, Weizmann Institute of Science, 28-29 April 2013; LINK

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