Research Themes

About purinergic signalling in brain diseases

Adenosine Triphosphate, commonly known as ATP, is the main universal source of energy to living cells. Usually it is found in very low amounts outside cells, but under disease conditions in the brain, such as inflammation, abnormal (high) neuronal activity or cell death, its quantities in the extracellular environment can increase, where it acts as chemical signal transmitting information from cell to cell.

Once released by cells, ATP binds and activates specific receptors located on brain cells known as purinergic P2 receptors. Once ATP binds to these receptors, the receptor “switches on” and then can modify different cellular functions, for example, changing how an electric impulse is transmitted from one neuron to another.

There are several receptors which belong to the P2 receptor family, but the one called P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) is of particular interest in the context of brain diseases because this receptor requires higher quantities of ATP to be “switched on”. This is important because ATP levels only increase during conditions of brain disease, therefore drugs acting on the P2X7 receptor may have less undesired side effects than currently used treatments.

The PurinesDX consortium brings together leading European specialists in brain research, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies to study the role of P2X7 receptors in some of the most devastating brain disorders such as neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)), neurological disorders (Epilepsy) and psychiatric disorders (Schizophrenia and Depression).

The main goals of the PurinesDX consortium are:


  • To develop potential new diagnostic tools to aid clinicians in the early detection of brain diseases


  • To develop potential new drugs to tackle brain diseases


  • To train the next generation of neuroscientists in a broad range of skills which will enable them to translate research results in much needed clinical tools

Brain diseases in our programme


PurinesDX research focuses on the most representative neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)), neurological (Epilepsy) and psychiatric disorders (Schizophrenia and Depression).

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Work Packages


PurinesDX Research programme is divided into three main themes or work packages: Function & LocationTherapeutic Targets and Biomarkers.

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In PurinesDX Programme, our PhD candidates will develop individual original research projects which include exposure to different disciplines and will have the opportunity to develop their work in academic, clinical and industrial settings enhancing their training experience.

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