Dr Tobias Engel
In 2001 I obtained my undergraduate diploma in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University Autonoma Madrid, Spain. My PhD studies were carried out at the laboratory of Prof Jesus Avila at the Molecular Biology Centre “Severo Ochoa” in Madrid characterizing different mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, with a particular focus on the microtubule-associated protein Tau and the enzyme GSK-3.
In 2006, after the completion of my PhD studies, I took on a post-doc position at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI, Dublin, Ireland) in the laboratory of Prof David Henshall studying molecular pathomechanisms during epilepsy and how neurodegeneration impacts on the epileptic phenotype.
Since 2014 I have established my own research group at RCSI with the main focus on the identification of new diagnostics and therapeutics for epilepsy based on purinergic signalling. In 2015 I was appointed StAR lecturer at RCSI and in 2016 I was appointed into my recent position as Lecturer in the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics. My current research group comprises 2 post-doctoral researchers and 5 PhD students.
Epilepsy is one of the most chronic brain diseases and affects ~50 million people worldwide. The major challenges in epilepsy include drug-resistance to current medication and a correct diagnosis. Approximately 30% of patients do not respond to drugs used in the clinic and if effective, these drugs come along with severe side-effects and are merely symptomatic and not curing the underlying causes leading to a life-long dependency on medication. A correct seizure/epilepsy diagnosis is in cases time-consuming, very costly and of limited availability. Consequently, the majority of epilepsy patients are treated on the basis of patient history and clinical features alone, leading to possible misdiagnosis or late treatment start.
The main focus of my research over the past 10 years was to determine the impact of drugs interfering with purinergic signalling on seizures and epilepsy. We have shown that by modulating purinergic signalling in the brain we are able to reduce seizure severity in animal models (Engel et al., FASEB J, 2012; Jimenez-Pacheco, Epilepsia, 2013) and that antagonists acting on the ionotropic P2X7 receptor may provide disease-modifying effects during epilepsy (Jimenez-Pacheco, J Neurosci 2016). We have also shown how the P2X7 receptor is regulated in the brain during seizures (Jimenez-Mateos, Sci Rep, 2015; Engel et al., Biochim Biophys Acta, 2017). My research is funded by national and international funding agencies including Science Foundation Ireland, Health Research Board and H2020.
Ongoing research of the group is now trying to establish the cell-specific contribution of purine receptors to seizure pathology. As a second focus of the group we are also characterizing the metabotropic P2Y receptor family and their possible role during seizure and epilepsy (Alves, et al., Epilepsia, 2017). Finally, we are trying to identify biomarkers, based on purinergic signalling, which will support the diagnosis of seizures/epilepsy and help to predict who will develop epilepsy following injuries to the brain.
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