Research in the Weiss lab is directed toward understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying human diseases caused by dysfunction of ion channels, and more especially calcium channels. Calcium is Mother Nature’s “ion-of-choice” for orchestrating fundamental cellular functions, as it contribute to neuronal excitability, muscle contraction, gene transcription, and a plethora of other key processes contributing to the normal physiology of the body. Calcium channels, which act as gated pathways for the movement of calcium across the cell membranes, play a central part in the initiation of the calcium signals, and defects in calcium channel function have dramatic consequences resulting in sever human diseases, so-called channelopathies.
Channelopathies are a heterogeneous group of disorders resulting from the dysfunction of ion channels located in the membranes of all cells and many cellular organelles. These include diseases of the nervous system, the cardiovascular system , the respiratory system, the endocrine system, the urinary system, and the immune system. There are two types of channelopathies: congenital and acquired. Congenital conditions are genetic in nature and can be inherited or the result of spontaneous mutations. Acquired conditions occur usually later in life and are the result of alteration of ion channels functions caused by aging, drugs, toxins and other cellular environment.
Major themes of the Weiss lab
Our research is centered on the molecular and physiological intrinsic and extrinsic factors that control the functioning of neuronal calcium channels and ultimately the excitability and communication between nerve cells. This focus integrates three major themes: First, we aim to dissect the molecular machinery controlling the physiological trafficking of neuronal calcium channels to the plasma membrane, and how metabolic defects associated with a number of chronic disorders such as type 2 diabetes hijack this machinery eventually leading to neuronal pathologies such as epilepsy or neuropathic pain. Second, we aim to analyze the functional consequence of genetic mutations in the calcium channel itself, or in the trafficking machinery units, providing a genetic-functional link to inherited neuronal disorders. Ultimately, we wish to translate new insights into the development of novel therapeutic avenues.
See our research for more information on our current projects.
The lab is based in the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, Czech Republic. We are members of both the Czech Academy of Sciences and Gilead Research Center. The principal investigator, Dr. Norbert Weiss, is originally from France. He completed his PhD at the University Joseph Fourier where he investigated the regulation of voltage-gated calcium channels by G-protein coupled receptors in the lab of Michel De Waard. Nobert then worked on the excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscles as a postdoral fellow in the lab of Vincent Jacquemond and Bruno Allard. In 2010, Norbert relocated to Canada to work on the molecular physiology of T-type calcium channels in the lab of Gerald W. Zamponi at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary. The Weiss lab opened in January 2014 with the focus to dissect the molecular, cellular, and environmental mechanisms controlling the functioning of neuronal calcium channels, and apply this knowledge to shed light on the mechanisms underlying human pathologies caused by dysfunction of ion channels so-called channelopathies. Norbert is also the founder of the ion channel service company KANALYST.