Neuromuscular Research

In a translational approach involving basic scientists, bioengineers, and clinical experts the neuromuscular research group focuses on the understanding of certain pathophysiological mechanisms of neuromuscular diseases including the autonomic nervous system, the development of new methodologies for diagnosis and disease monitoring (“biomarkers”), as well as analyzing therapeutic effects of specific treatments. Combining molecular biology, histology, non-invasive imaging, and neurophysiological techniques with advanced artificial intelligence methodologies in humans, we aim at a thorough assessment of molecular, structural, and functional aspects of neuromuscular diseases.

We have ongoing research projects on the following neuromuscular diseases:

  • Critical illness polyneuropathy and myopathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathies (CIDP), autonomic neuropathies, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Pompe’s disease, inflammatory myopathies, and muscular dystrophies.
  • As our research involves rare diseases, we are a member of both national and international research initiatives such as: TREAT-NMD, European Reference Network for Neuromuscular Diseases (EURO-NMD), International Guillain-Barré-Outcome Study (IGOS), Inflammatory Neuropathy Consortium database (INCbase), MYO-MRI, Swiss-Pompe-Registry, and the Swiss Registry for Neuromuscular Diseases.
  • Our research is funded by the Swiss Foundation for Research on Muscle Diseases (fsrmm: fondation suisse de recherche sur les maladies musculaires), the Gottfried & Julia Bangerter-Rhyner Stiftung, the Inselspital, and by the University of Bern.

Research focus

  • Neuromuscular phenotype characterization of degenerative diseases
  • Membrane excitability measurements of peripheral nerve and muscle
  • Neurophysiological characterization of motor and muscle fatigue
  • Imaging-based peripheral nerve morphometry and lesion characterization
  • Outcome measures for muscle and peripheral nerve diseases
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) sequence development for neuromuscular diseases
  • Clinical studies in motor neuron diseases, inflammatory neuropathies and myopathies, muscular dystrophies, metabolic myopathies, critical illness polyneuropathy and myopathy, and diseases of the autonomic nervous system

Research methods

  • Animal models of degenerative diseases
  • Enzyme- and immunohistochemistry, fluorescence microscopy
  • Basic human neurophysiological techniques
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation including cortical excitability measurements
  • Membrane threshold tracking methods
  • Neuromuscular ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) sequence development (MR fingerprinting, diffusion imaging, Dixon imaging, spectroscopy)
  • Image reconstruction and analysis methods using artificial intelligence
  • Multi-modal clinical deep phenotyping

Group members

  • PD Dr. med. O. Scheidegger (PI)
  • Prof. Dr. med. W. Z’Graggen (PI)
  • Dr. sc. nat. F. Balsiger (postdoctoral researcher)
  • Dr. med. A. Dietmann, PhD (clinical researcher)
  • Dr. med. M. Blanquet (clinical researcher)
  • Dr. med. B. Wagner (clinical researcher)
  • B. Rodriguez (PhD student)
  • N. Locher, MMed, (MD candidate)
  • J. Fischer (master student)

Close collaborations

  • Prof. Dr. S. Saxena (PI Neurodegenerative Research group, Inselspital)
  • Dr. med. P. Ripellino (Neurocentre of Southern Switzerland)
  • PD Dr. med. T. Hundsberger (Kantonsspital St. Gallen, Switzerland)
  • B. Marty, PhD (Institut de Myologie, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France)
  • P. Carlier, PhD (Chair, Imaging Group, European Reference Network EURO-NMD, CEA and Université Paris-Saclay, France)
  • PD Dr. med. F. Kurz and Dr. med. J. Jende (Neuroradiology, University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. med. R. Wiest (deputy director University Institute of Neuroradiology, Inselspital)
  • Prof. H. Tankisi, PhD (Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark)