German research exchange to benefit Parkinson's research

An Aberdeen PhD student has been awarded more than £8000 to enable a research exchange visit that will further her research into Parkinson's disease (PD).

Inga Schmidt, a postgraduate member of Professor Bettina Platt’s and Professor Gernot Riedel’s research groups, will visit the Schäfer research group at the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern (UASK) in Zweibrücken, while Stephanie Rommel, a student at UASK, will visit Aberdeen as part of the arrangement.

Inga’s project focusses on the mechanisms of disease severity, while Stephanie studies the role of the gut in Parkinson’s disease.  

The corresponding research groups at each university have an extensive expertise in researching neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The research of the Platt/Riedel group in Aberdeen focuses on the brain while the Schäfer group at UASK focusses on the role of the gut in these diseases. Therefore, the proposed project will allow the two teams to study models of the disease from two different but complementary angles and get a better understanding how the so-called gut-brain axis contributes to disease onset and progression.

The main aim of this award is to offer early career researchers experience in other laboratories and learn additional, new techniques that may be useful for their career. In addition, the visit may set the basis for a new formal collaboration between the two institutions and the sharing of data, expertise, techniques and resources.

This award was created by SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance) through a collaborative international partnership with joint funding from Scottish Government, Rhineland Pfalz Ministry of Science and Health and SULSA. At the time of awarding this funding SULSA was funded by 11 universities in Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council.

The funding for the award is the result of extra tax income in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz generated by BioNTech - the start-up who worked with Pfizer on one of the leading Covid vaccines. The award was set up with a view to reinvesting this research success into further scientific progress.

Inga said: “I’m delighted to have secured this award, which will not only benefit me as an early-career researcher but also the two research groups in Aberdeen and Zweibrücken, who will be able to combine their expertise to contribute to a more comprehensive Parkinson’s disease study.”

Professor Bettina Platt added: "This is a welcome opportunity for ECRs and widening of our research network in general, but also for me personally as I can re-connect my current home and work place with Rheinland-Pfalz - the place I grew up and studied for my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Mainz in 1994.”