The research interests of Wolfdieter Springer, Ph.D., revolve around cell biology in aging and age-dependent disorders. His primary research focus is on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other related neurodegenerative disorders.
Dr. Springer's Translational Cell Biology of Parkinson's Disease Lab takes a combinatorial approach using biochemistry, cell biology and advanced imaging techniques, such as multicolor live cell and high-content microscopy. His lab aims to identify novel genetic and chemical modifiers in cell-based assays, as well as in vivo using C. elegans as a screening tool.
Dr. Springer is part of a team of internationally recognized researchers and clinicians with specialty training in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders supported by the American Parkinson Disease Association. Mayo Clinic has been designated an American Parkinson Disease Center for Advanced Research.
- Novel mitochondrial autophagy pathway. Very recently, Dr. Springer and his team discovered a novel mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) pathway that not only links two Parkinson's disease associated genes, PINK1 (a mitochondrial kinase) and Parkin (a cytosolic E3 ubiquitin ligases), but also two of the main cellular dysfunctions implicated in disease pathogenesis.
PINK1 and Parkin functionally interact to identify, label and target damaged mitochondria for selective degradation via autophagy. This emerging mitophagy pathway that connects mitochondrial as well as autophagic and/or lysosomal dysfunctions promises great future potential for the development of beneficial therapeutics.
Dr. Springer's research aims at a complete mechanistic dissection of the mitophagy pathway, as well as the identification of novel key players and auspicious drug targets. He and his colleagues are dedicated to translational drug discovery efforts that are based on the understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms.
- Mitochondrial and related dysfunctions. Intriguingly, mitochondrial as well as autophagic and/or lysosomal dysfunctions appear to play a major role in both the aging process itself and several neurological disorders.
Dr. Springer is therefore analyzing the contribution of disturbances in these organelles to the aging process itself and the pathophysiology of several age-related human diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementias, lysosomal storage disorders and mitochondrial diseases.
Significance to patient care
Functional insights gained through Dr. Springer's research will provide the basis to address unmet medical needs, such as identifying faithful biomarkers and developing novel therapeutic strategies that halt or prevent devastating neurodegenerative diseases.