The European Research Council funds neuroimmunologist with 1.5 Million Euros

Starting Grant for Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorty for the study of a Multiple Sclerosis trigger

February 10, 2015

The Starting Grants of the European Research Council (ERC) seek to give talented scientists at an early stage in their careers the freedom to pursue their most creative ideas. Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy, group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, was one of this year's successful Starting Grant applicants - prevailing against thousands of other applicants. With the 1.5 Million Euros he will receive over the period of five years, Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy will establish an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. The group's aim is to investigate the role of gut microbiota in autoimmune diseases of the central nervous systems such as Multiple Sklerosis.

Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy was awarded approximately 1.5 Million Euro from the European Research Council. He aims at understanding the role gut bacteria play in the development of Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis, or short MS, is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. In this autoimmune disorder, cells from the body’s immune system penetrate into the central nervous system. Here, the cells wreak havoc by triggering off inflammatory reactions and attacking nerve cells. In Germany alone, the resulting adverse effects afflict over 120 000 MS-patients. Despite decades of research on MS, the causes and course of the disease are still largely unclear. In general, scientists assume that environmental factors as well as genetic dispositions play a role in the disease's initiation and progression.

Three years ago, Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy and his team discovered that bacteria from the natural intestinal flora, which every human being needs for digestion, could act as a trigger for the development of Multiple Sclerosis. The researchers revealed that genetically modified mice develop an inflammation in the brain similar to the human disease if they have normal bacterial intestinal flora. Mice without microorganisms in their intestines and held in a sterile environment remained healthy.

With his ERC Starting Grant, Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy will establish an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry within the department Molecular Medicine. Here, the neuroimmunologist seeks to unravel the role gut microbiota play in the development of autoimmune responses. The aim is to identify the harmful gut bacteria and the molecular pathways involved which are relevant to central nervous system autoimmunity. Based on the results, he hopes to identify therapeutic strategies targeting gut microbiota in order to limit the development of inflammatory processes during autoimmune diseases.

The European Research Council received 3,273 grant applications during the past call period. Overall, 10% of the applications were successful. The budget of 485 Million Euro is shared out between 328 applications from 38 nations. In Germany, 70 applicants were awarded a Starting Grant. Two awardees come from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried near Munich, where not only Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorty, but also Ilona Grunwald Kadow was selected for funding.

THE AWARDEE:

Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy studied pharmacology at the Adhiparasakthi College of Pharmacy in Tamilnadu, India and the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in Punjab, India. Following a research position at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, he came for his PhD thesis to the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried. Here, he heads since 2008 a research group in the Neuroimmunology department. As of March 2015, he will start his independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. For his achievements, Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy was bestowed with the Sobek Prize of the German Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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