Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory

The Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory (NDAL) was established with the support of the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation in 2005 under the umbrella of Boğaziçi University’s Molecular Biology and Genetics Department.  NDAL is the first academic collaboration between a public university and a private foundation in Turkey. The prestigious Kıraç donation encourages NDAL to become a referential laboratory in Turkey in terms of improving research and knowledge in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. NDAL, which is financed by the Boğaziçi University Research Fund, TUBITAK, DPT and several international projects, in addition to the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, is considered as a center of excellence in molecular diagnosis of genetic and complex diseases, not only in Turkey, but also internationally.

Using its experience in the field of genetics to provide molecular diagnosis services in several neurological diseases, NDAL is the sole referential laboratory in Turkey in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. NDAL holds the samples of such frequently seen diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, Huntington Diseases, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Myotonic Dystrophy and Ataxias. This DNA bank at NDAL has great potential for research.

The primary research subject of the laboratory is to study motor-neuron (especially ALS) and similar neurodegenerative diseases and their causing molecular mechanisms. Understanding the mechanisms instigating the neurodegeneration process will pave the way for the long-awaited molecular treatments. The human genome can now be thoroughly read, thanks to newly developed methods. The extracted information has enabled the finding of new genes and different biological mechanisms with each new gene. This work with the human genome has demonstrated that ALS and other neurodegenerative processes are more complex than expected and has shifted the paradigms involved in studying neurodegenerative diseases, in particular ALS. We have now realized that, when it comes to diseases with complex structures, we have to think in terms of individual medicine rather than adopting a single disease, single drug approach.

NDAL is involved in many national and international collaborations. Thanks to the fund created within the framework of NDAL’s contract with Brown University’s Neuroscience and Molecular Cell Biology programs, successful students from Boğaziçi University’s Molecular Biology and Genetics Department can now obtain PhD degrees at Brown University. NDAL has also carried out joint studies with the Medical Faculties of University of Massachusetts and Harvard University. These collaborations aim to further improve neurobiology, which is a fairly recent discipline in Turkey, and to set up a center of excellence in neurodegeneration research. NDAL’s collaborations in Europe consist of laboratories specialized in ALS and neurodegenerative diseases, such as with Prof. Peter Andersen at Umea University, Sweden and Prof. Georg Auburger at Frankfurt University.

Under the leadership of Dr. Nazlı Başak, a post-doc researcher, three PhD students, five Master students, two laboratory specialists and two executive assistants work at NDAL.  Many undergraduate students and interns voluntarily participate in the projects as well. The focus areas of NDAL, whose main research subject is the biology of ALS and the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration, can be summarized as follows:

  • Finding new mutations and genes in ALS by employing genetics and genomic methods.
  • Effects of new genes and mechanisms on creation of ALS.
  • Drosophila as a neurodegenerative disease model (collaboration with Brown University).
  • Cortico-spinal motor-neuron development (collaboration with Harvard University).
  • Effective mechanisms in PARK4 locus in Parkinson Disease, alpha synuclein protein and developing biomarkers for early diagnosis (with Frankfurt University).
  • Effective disease mechanisms in Spino-cerebellar Ataxia 2, SCA2 protein and biomarker development (with Frankfurt University).
  • Application of bio-informatics and system biology on neurologic diseases (collaboration with Umass).

The scientific consultants of NDAL are Prof. Robert H. Brown (University of Massachusetts) and Prof. Jeffrey D. Macklis (Harvard University). These two scientists visit the laboratory once a year and keep up with the studies. Their meetings are called as “NDAL Brainstorming Meetings”, and the last one was carried out in August 2013.

To read NDAL's 10th year book, please click here.