The NGF System and its interplay with endocannabinoid signalling, from peripheral sensory terminals to the brain: new targets for the development of next generation drugs for neuropathic pain

  • Institute Presentation

    The Medical University of Vienna is the largest establishment of its kind in Central Europe, with more than 1,800 researchers and 1,600 medical doctors being active at its 31 university departments and 12 centers. The Center for Brain Research, an independent organization dedicated to fundamental research in the Neurosciences encompasses 6 internationally-renown departments thematically addressing molecular (Harkany), cellular (Berger) and systems level (Klausberger) organization of the nervous system, with translational focus on multiplex sclerosis (Lassmann), Alzheimer’s disease (Harkany) and other neurodegenerative disorders (Berger) and pain (Harkany/Sandkuhler).
    The Department of Molecular Neurosciences is the birthplace of the L-DOPA therapy devised by O. Hornykiewicz, and the molecular structure-function analysis of the GABAA receptor by W. Sieghart. With the appointment of T. Harkany as its new chairman, the Department will engage in new ventures particularly addressing the interplay of endocannabinoids and neurotrophins during brain development and in disease (i.e. pain).

  • Project Staff

    harkanyTibor Harkany

    PhD, Professor
    Department of Molecular Neurosciences (Center for Brain Research) – Medical University of Vienna

    Tibor Harkany has about 15 years of research experience. He has recentlymade important contributions to the dissection of the structural blueprint of endocannabinoid signaling in the developing nervous system, including the identification of the molecular substrates of cannabis-induced developmental deficits in the cerebral cortex. His work integrates developmental and cell biology, neuroanatomy and molecular genetics, also allowing the study of the human CNS. He has been awarded the Anders Jahre Prize (young scientists) for Medical Research (2012), fellowships of the Society for Biology (2010) and EMBO’s young investigator program (2007).


    Erik Keimpema

    PhD, Research Assistant
    Department of Molecular Neurosciences (Center for Brain Research) – Medical University of Vienna

    Erik Keimpema has received his Ph.D from the University of Aberdeen. Dr. Keimpema is trained in neuronal development with emphasis on the mechanisms instructing the molecular diversification of neurons. His recent work focuses on neuropeptides (particularly galanin) action in the fetal nervous system, and the interplay of endocannabinoid-neuropeptide systems. He uses molecular, cell biology and neuroanatomy tools to interrogate model organisms.

    GloriaArqueGloria Arque

    PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher
    Department of Molecular Neurosciences (Center for Brain Research) – 
    Medical University of Vienna

    Gloria Arque received her Ph.D from the Centre for Genomic Regulation at the University of Barcelona, Spain. During her graduate studies, she was involved in showing that overexpression of dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A), a single gene, was responsible for key features of Down syndrome, such as mental retardation and early motor impairment. She received extensive training in behavioural neurosciences and neuromorphology. Next, she performed postdoctoral training at the University of California Davis, where she studied Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia (FXTAS) syndrome. Her recent work focuses on dissecting the contribution of endocannabinoid signalling to neuropathic pain. Her experimental approach combines behavioural, molecular and histochemical read-outs in the central and peripheral nervous systems in animal models and human specimens.

    tomas_hokfelt_foto_ulf_sirborn-lowTomas Hökfelt

    MD, PhD, Senior Professor
    Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
    Guest Professor
    Department of Molecular Neurosciences (Center for Brain Research) – Medical University of Vienna


    Tomas Hökfelt has pioneered the study of systems neuroscience with particular emphasis on neuropeptides in sensory ganglia, spinal cord and brain. He has demonstrated the co-existence and co-release of non-neurotransmitter peptide molecules with fast neurotransmitters within the same peripheral and central neurons. His further contributions include the functional analysis of galanin, neuropeptide Y and their receptor systems, involved in neurodevelopment and pain transmission, as well as neuropsychiatric diseases. His approach links behavioral studies with pharmacological and pathophysiological manipulations. His work is highly cited (>104,000, h-factor: 161) and recognized through election to (amongst others) Swedish, Finnish, Chinese, Italian, Danish and Hungarian Academies, and the European and National USA Academy, honorary doctorates in Copenhagen, Beijing, Bordeaux, Buenos Aires and many prestigious prizes, more recently the Anders Retzius Medal (Stockholm, 2007), Grand Medaille, Academie des Sciences (Paris, 2007), Erasmus Medal (Bergen, 2012) and the Golden Kraepelin Medal (Munich, 2012).