Scientific Research Institutes > University Institutes > Molecular Regenerative Medicine

Institute for Molecular Regenerative Medicine

Director: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ludwig Aigner

Getting old and still being healthy is the main concern of our increasingly older society and one of the greatest current challenges for the biomedical research. The risk for neurodegenerative diseases increases quickly with the age. At the age of 90, already one out of two people suffer from dementia disease. Neurodegenerative diseases such as the dementia are not curable for now. We from the Institute for Molecular Regenerative Medicine are betting on the endogenous regeneration processes of the brain and thus on the self-healing capacity. We know that the brain generates new nerve cells even into advanced old age. These nerve cells are essential for the learning and memory processes and are of decisive importance for the spontaneous healing, for example after a stroke.

We are studying the cellular and molecular regeneration processes of the ill brain and develop new pharmacological applications on this basis for development of medicaments for the treatment ofdementia, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as spinal paralysis. In previous studies, we could actually rejuvenate structurally and functionally the brain suffering from dementia to such an extent that the learning and memory capacities could be completely restored.

Figure 1. Regenerative medicine for ZNS diseases


The Institute for Molecular Regenerative Medicine was founded in November 2008 by the governor Gabi Burgstaller within the framework of an endowment professorship chair.

Our research is focused on stem cell-based brain regeneration and the plasticity mechanisms, especially with respect to the ageing, neuro-degeneration and demyelinating diseases. Our goal is to generate new neurons for the central nervous system, which functionally integrate themselves, or to modify existing neuronal circuits in such a way that the loss of nerve cells caused by old age or a neurodegenerative disease could be counteracted. Along with the new generation of nerve cells, we would like also to restore their function, for example in the case when the damaged myelin is repaired with new "oligodendrocytes". In order to find new therapy possibilities for better regeneration of the nervous system, we are researching intensively signal molecules and mechanisms which influence the neurogenesis and develop strategies for impeding the damaging processes.

In addition to our scientific research activities, we would like to establish the main research topic of "regenerative medicine" as a fixed component within out university and in the research landscape of Salzburg. A milestone in this respect is the founding of the Cross-sectional and Tissue Regeneration Centre Salzburg (SCI-TReCS) within Paracelsus Medical Private University. The establishment of new research methods, the coordination and networking of the research groups – always in view of the best well-being of the patients – is and remains our priority concern. We are very thankful for any support we can receive for the realisation of our goals – be it of public, private, business or personal nature!  



The regeneration of the brain and the spinal cord is always in the foreground of our research. We research the central regeneration mechanisms and develop on this basis molecular (pharmacological) as wells as cellular therapies.

The interest in adult stem cells and adult neurogenesis has grown drastically after they were discovered also in the adult human hippocampus and bulbus olfactorius (Erikkson et al., 1998; Curtis et al., 2007). In this way, the continuous build-up of new nerve cells, which is limited to the regions of the adult neurogenesis, can play a decisive role in the regenerative and cognitive processes.

Our work is focused on:

  • The molecular regulation of the new formation of nerve cells (neurogenesis), in particular under pathological conditions, because the neurogenesis is affected in many ZNS diseases. The objectives here are to identify new molecules which affect the neurogenesis and impede the effect of these molecules, in order to restore the stem cell activity and the neurogenesis. At the same time, we identify the molecules which stimulate the neurogenesis. We see the future applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases and Chorea Huntington, in acute lesions such as, for example, stroke, but also in the treatment of psychiatric diseases such as depression.

  • We study the communication between mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), obtained from the bone marrow, and neural stem cells (NSCs), because we were able to show recently that the MSCs induce and stimulate the differentiation of the NSCs in the oligodrendrocyte direction. The goal is the use the MSCs for future therapies of demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

  • Any kind of future stem cell- and neurogenesis-based therapies needs the possibility to observe them in live animals or people. Since no adequate methods exist at present, we develop imaging techniques for visualisation of the neurogenesis.

Main research priorities

  • Demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system and remyelinating
    Leader: Francisco Rivera

  • Ageing and neurodegenerative diseases
    Leader: Julia Marschallinger

  • Systemic inflammation and neuro-inflammation
    Leader: Barbara Klein

  • Neuronal communication
    Leader: Sebastian Illes

Research projects

Demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system and remyelinating

In the main research priority of demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system and remyelinating, we focus on molecular and cellular therapy developments in the area of multiple sclerosis with the following projects:

  • Mesenchymal stem cells and remyelinating (Francisco Rivera, in close cooperation with Eva Rohde, transfusion medicine, and with Eugen Trinka, neurology)

  • The vascular niche of the central nervous system in the centre of the ZNS regeneration (Francisco Rivera and Simona Lange, in cooperation with Cambridge, UK, and with Karolinska, Stockholm)

Ageing and neurodegenerative diseases

In the area of ageing and neurodegenerative diseases, our goal is to reactivate the regeneration capability of the brain. The following projects are in the focus:

  • The role of TGF-beta in neurodegenerative diseases and TGF-beta blockade as therapeutic application for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal paralysis (Ludwig Aigner and Julia Marschallinger, in cooperation with Ulrich Bogdahn, Regensburg university, and Mahesh Kandasamy, Bharathidasan University, India)

  • The role of the leukotrienes in neurodegenerative diseases and leukotriene blockade as therapeutic application in dementias and Parkinson disease (Julia Marschallinger, in cooperation with Maria Pia Abbracchio, Universität of Milan, Eliezer Masliah, University of California Sand Diego, Tony Wyss-Coray, Stanford University)

  • Cellular plasticity in Alzheimer disease: Mechanisms and base for cell therapy (Michael Unger and Julia Marschallinger, in cooperation with Michael Heneka, University of Bonn, Annemie van der Linden, University of Antwerpen, Eliezer Masliah, University of California Sand Diego)

A joint connective link between the degeneration and regeneration in the brain and the spinal cord is the neuro-inflammation, in particular the microglia. These cells appear in various activities and contribute insofar both to degeneration, but also to regeneration. The following projects are in the foreground:

  • Clarification of the identity of the different microglias and the development of new microglia markers (Barbara Klein, Heike Mrowetz, in cooperation with INMIND consortium)

  • Neuro-inflammation in the case of allergic reactions – a connective link to the change in the brain (Barbara Klein, in cooperation with Josef Thalhamer and Richard Weiss, PLUS Salzburg)

We research the neuronal communication at cellular and network level. During this, we discover, on the one hand, new cellular sources of regeneration in the central nervous system and, on the other hand, we research how the systemic factors from the blood and the liquor (the cerebrospinal fluid) affect the activity of the nerve cells.

  • The immature cells as a new source of ZNS regeneration (Richard König, in cooperation with Sébastien Couillard-Després, Experimental Neuro-regeneration)
  • Effect of systemic factors on the neuronal network activity (Sebastian Illes, in cooperation with Eric Hanse und Henrik Zetterberg, Götheborg).


Teaching in the study in human medicine

In the first year of study in human medicine, we teach molecular genetics in relation to genetic diseases. At the same time, we prepare the students in a "Basic Lab Course” for their research trimester in the fourth year of study.

Postgraduate doctorate study programs

In the doctorate study programs in molecular medicine and medical science, we convey our knowledge in the field of regenerative medicine to the students.

Master degree and Ph.D. students of Paris Lodron University Salzburg

We mentor regularly in research projects several master degree and Ph.D. students of Paris Lodron University.

Team and contact