Univ.-Prof. Dr. Sonja Bröer
Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie
Arbeitsgruppe Prof. Dr. Sonja Bröer
I am a veterinarian (graduated in 2010 from TiHo Hannover) as well as an internationally well-connected scientist and enthusiastic teacher. I hope to mentor in programs that help students to succeed in their careers (also outside of academic or industry biomedical sciences). Feel free to setup an appointment and stop by my office!
My research in neurosciences and neuropharmacology is inspired by multidisciplinary approaches evaluating the role of the immune system and de- and regeneration of neurons in diseases of the central nervous system. We focus on epilepsy as one of the most common chronic neurological diseases. Seizures can be triggered by various causes, such as infections and intoxications of the central nervous system, genetic predispositions, stroke, and head trauma. Despite the multifaceted etiology current treatment approaches mainly aim to symptomatically suppress seizures and do not treat the underlying cause of disease development and progression. My work is oriented towards identifying new pharmacological targets that could alter processes that are contributing to seizure generation and brain pathology, such as synaptic reorganization, neurodegeneration, and inflammation.
Especially in an inflammatory state the delicate balance of immune cells that are activated or infiltrate the brain after an infection seems to be key to seizure development and neurological damage. I am particularly interested in the innate immune response. Monocytes adopt different functions depending on their activation cues; they might be helpful in promoting tissue repair, but their ability to fight infected cells can be detrimental to the healing of affected tissue. I am working with a model mimicking the infectious etiology of epilepsy, in which we could show that the death of CA1 neurons in the hippocampus, as well as the activation of microglia and the infiltration of peripheral macrophages are biomarkers of seizure development. Together with my previous team in the group of Prof. Dr. Löscher at the TiHo in Hannover, as well as a very successful cooperation with the Dept. of Pathology and the TwinCore Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, I discovered that as early as two days post viral infection macrophages migrate into the brain and simultaneously resident microglia are activated. Further investigation on macrophage reporter mice allowed a more precise differentiation of the involved immune cells and their surface antigens and showed that a sub-population of microglia was no longer distinguishable from migrating macrophages after activation. By using additional genetically modified mice (Ccr2-/- and Cx3cr1-/-) we were able to further elucidate the significance of the individual cell populations for the onset of seizures: Both microglial activation and macrophage invasion independently lead to acute seizures. However, the associated neurodegeneration in the hippocampus could be significantly reduced by switching off one of the cell populations. The mechanisms of seizure formation and neurodegeneration after viral encephalitis appear to be more complex than initially thought and require further studies to be fully understood.
Apart from disease mechanisms, I have a strong interest in researching new translational therapeutic strategies for neurological diseases. In the past few years, I have worked as a leading scientist in a Silicon Valley based biotechnology start-up, Neurona Therapeutics. The company is developing a stem cell-based therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, including epilepsy. I have gained in-depth knowledge about cell-based therapies, but also about building a preclinical program on its successful route towards clinical approval, which I will both integrate into my research and teaching endeavors at the FU.
Käufer C*, Chhatbar C*, Bröer S*, Waltl I, Ghitab L, Gerhauser I, Kalinke U, Löscher W (2018).
Chemokine receptors CCR2 and CX3CR1 regulate viral encephalitis-induced hippocampal damage but
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E8929–E8938.
Backofen-Wehrhahn B, Gey L, Bröer S, Petersen B, Schiff M, Handreck A, Stanslowsky N, Scharrenbroich J, Weißing M, Staege S, Wegner F, Niemann H, Löscher W, Gernert M (2018).
Anticonvulsant effects after grafting of rat, porcine, and human mesencephalic neural progenitor cells into the rat subthalamic nucleus.
Exp Neurol 310:70-83.
Bröer S, Hage E, Käufer C, Gerhauser I, Anjum M, Li L, Baumgärtner W, Schulz TF, Löscher W (2017).
Viral mouse models of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy: Marked differences in neuropathogenesis following infection with two naturally occurring variants of Theiler’s virus BeAn strain.
Neurobiol Dis 99:121-132.
Bröer S, Käufer C, Haist V, Li L, Gerhauser I, Anjum M, Bankstahl M, Baumgärtner W, Löscher W (2016).
Brain inflammation, neurodegeneration and seizure development following picornavirus infection markedly differ among virus and mouse strains and substrains.
Exp Neurol 279:57-74.
Bröer S, Backofen-Wehrhahn B, Bankstahl M, Gey L, Gernert M, Löscher W (2012).
Vigabatrin for focal drug delivery in epilepsy: bilateral microinfusion into the subthalamic nucleus is more effective than intranigral or systemic administration in a rat seizure model.
Neurobiol Dis 46:362-76.
- FU, Freien Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Veterinärmedizin, Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie,