The initiative for a DFG Research Unit (RU) “Synaptic pathology in autoimmune encephalitis” (SYNABS) brings together clinician scientists in the field of antibody-mediated immunological disorders with basic scientists in the field of neurophysiology, molecular neurobiology, and neuroimmunology collectively investigating autoantibody-mediated pathology in the CNS. The aim of SYNABS is to elucidate the pathophysiology of autoimmune encephalitis in which autoantibodies are directed at synaptic targets. We will apply new and state-of-the art technology, reaching from various passive transfer, active immunization and spontaneous murine and feline models, to advanced electrophysiological methods, super-resolution imaging, and engineering of human antibodies. Experiments will be performed in animal models and in human and murine neuronal preparations. Furthermore, as a proof of concept, the human immunopathology will also be assessed in autopsy material from deceased patients. Focusing on the most relevant synaptic targets within the spectrum of autoimmune encephalitides we aim at developing target- and tissue-specific therapeutic tools in animal models that hopefully may translate to the afflicted patients.
This Research Unit is a translational research initiative by clinician and basic scientists who have a background in this research realm and started working jointly in collaborative projects. The expected results of the projects may have impact on the understanding of immune-mediated dysfunction of synapses in this group of previously enigmatic CNS disorders. Finally, we aim to develop novel target-specific therapies in the continuously growing disease group of autoimmune encephalitis.