Press releases – March 2024

Whether it is new and groundbreaking research results, university topics or events – in our press releases you can find everything you need to know about the happenings at Goethe University. To subscribe, just send an email to

Goethe University PR & Communication Department 

Theodor-W.-Adorno Platz 1
60323 Frankfurt


Mar 28 2024

Global astronomy research network EHT analyzes data from another series of observations

New image of the center of our Milky Way: Spiral magnetic fields surround black hole Sagittarius A*

A new series of observations by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration measuring the degree of polarization in the emitted light shows that the black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) in the center of our Milky Way is surrounded by strong, spiral-shaped magnetic fields. Such a magnetic structure is likely produced by the magnetized plasma that is falling onto Sgr A* and is similar to that of M87*, the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. This important result suggests that all black holes may have strong magnetic fields and that Sgr A*, like M87*, may emit a particle jet that has not yet been revealed by the observations. The team led by Prof. Luciano Rezzolla, Goethe University Frankfurt, was significantly involved in the evaluation and theoretical interpretation of the new measurements.

FRANKFURT. In 2022, scientists of the EHT unveiled the first image of Sgr A* – which is approximately 27,000 light-years away from Earth – revealing that the Milky Way's supermassive black hole looks remarkably similar to M87's, even though it is more than a thousand times smaller and less massive. This made scientists wonder whether the two shared common traits outside of their looks. To find out, the team decided to study Sgr A* in polarized light. Previous studies of light around M87* had shown that the magnetic fields around the gigantic black hole allowed it to launch powerful jets of material back into the surrounding environment. Building on this work, the new images revealed that the same may be true for Sgr A*. 

Imaging black holes, especially Sgr A*, in polarized light is not easy, because the ionized gas, or plasma, in the vicinity of the black hole orbits it in only a few minutes. Because the particles of the plasma swirl around the magnetic field lines, the magnetic field structures change rapidly during the recording of the radio waves by the EHT. Sophisticated instruments and techniques were required to capture the image the supermassive black hole. 

Professor Luciano Rezzolla, theoretical astrophysicist at Goethe University Frankfurt, explains: "Polarized radio waves are influenced by magnetic fields and by studying the degree of polarization of the observed light we can learn how the magnetic fields of the black hole are distributed. However, unlike a standard image, which needs only information on the intensity of the light, creating a polarization map as the one we have just published is considerably harder. Indeed, our polarized image of Sgr A* is the result of a careful comparison between the actual measurements and the hundreds of thousands of possible images we can produce via advanced supercomputer simulations. Similar to the first image of Sgr A*, these polarized images represent an average of all measurements."

Rezzolla's fellow Project Scientist Geoffrey Bower from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica, Taiwan adds, “Making a polarized image is like opening the book after you have only seen the cover. Because Sgr A* moves around while we try to take its picture, it was difficult to construct even the unpolarized image," adding that the first image was an average of multiple images due to Sgr A*'s movement. “We were relieved that polarized imaging was even possible. Some models were far too scrambled and turbulent to construct a polarized image, but nature was not so cruel." 

“By imaging polarized light from hot glowing gas near black holes, we are directly inferring the structure and strength of the magnetic fields that thread the flow of gas and matter that the black hole feeds on and ejects," said Harvard Black Hole Initiative Fellow and project co-lead Angelo Ricarte. “Polarized light teaches us a lot more about the astrophysics, the properties of the gas, and mechanisms that take place as a black hole feeds." 

Sara Issaoun, NASA Hubble Fellowship Program Einstein Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian and co-lead of the project, says “Along with Sgr A* having a strikingly similar polarization structure to that seen in the much larger and more powerful M87* black hole, we've learned that strong and ordered magnetic fields are critical to how black holes interact with the gas and matter around them." 

Mariafelicia De Laurentis, EHT Deputy Project Scientist and professor at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, also emphasizes the significance of the similarity between the magnetic field structures of M87* and Sgr A*, suggesting universal processes governing black hole feeding and jet launching despite differences in their properties. This finding enhances theoretical models and simulations, refining our understanding of black hole dynamics near the event horizon.

Background: Magnetic fields at the edge of M87's black hole (2021) 

Picture and video download: The black hole SgrA*: The magnetic fields spiral around the central shadow of the black hole. Image: EHT Collaboration (Video-Download) M87* in polarized light: Light is an oscillating electromagnetic wave. If the waves have a preferred direction of oscillation, they are polarized. In space, moving hot gas, or 'plasma', threaded by a magnetic field emits polarized light. The polarized light rays that manage to escape the pull of the black hole travel to a distant camera. The intensity of the light rays and their direction are what EHT collaboration observes with the Event Horizon Telescope. Credit: © EHT Collaboration and Fiks Film

(1) EHT collaboration: First Sagittarius A* Event Horizon Telescope Results. VII. Polarization of the Ring. Astrophysical Journal Letters (2024)
(2) EHT collaboration: First Sagittarius A* Event Horizon Telescope Results. VIII. Physical Interpretation of the Polarized Ring. Astrophysical Journal Letters (2024) 

Professor Luciano Rezzolla
Chair of Theoretical Astrophysics
Institute of Theoretical Physics
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel. +49 69 798-47871 / 47879 

Twitter/X: @goetheuni @ehtelescope


Mar 25 2024

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and Kiel University have developed an innovative detection method

Novel electrochemical sensor detects dangerous bacteria

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and Kiel University have developed a novel sensor for the detection of bacteria. It is based on a chip with an innovative surface coating. This ensures that only very specific microorganisms adhere to the sensor – such as certain pathogens. The larger the number of organisms, the stronger the electric signal generated by the chip. In this way, the sensor is able not only to detect dangerous bacteria with a high level of sensitivity but also to determine their concentration. 

FRANKFURT. Each year, bacterial infections claim several million lives worldwide. That is why detecting harmful microorganisms is crucial – not only in the diagnosis of diseases but also, for example, in food production. However, the methods available so far are often time-consuming, require expensive equipment or can only be used by specialists. Moreover, they are often unable to distinguish between active bacteria and their decay products. 

By contrast, the newly developed method detects only intact bacteria. It makes use of the fact that microorganisms only ever attack certain body cells, which they recognize from the latter's specific sugar molecule structure. This matrix, known as the glycocalyx, differs depending on the type of cell. It serves, so to speak, as an identifier for the body cells. This means that to capture a specific bacterium, we need only to know the recognizable structure in the glycocalyx of its preferred host cell and then use this as “bait".

This is precisely what the researchers have done. “In our study, we wanted to detect a specific strain of the gut bacterium Escherichia coli – or E. coli for short," explains Professor Andreas Terfort from the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt. “We knew which cells the pathogen usually infects. We used this to coat our chip with an artificial glycocalyx that mimics the surface of these host cells. In this way, only bacteria from the targeted E. coli strain adhere to the sensor." 

E. coli has many short arms, known as pili, which the bacterium uses to recognize its host's glycocalyx and cling onto it. “The bacteria use their pili to bind to the sensor in several places, which allows them to hang on particularly well," says Terfort. In addition, the chemical structure of the artificial glycocalyx is such that microbes without the right arms slide off it – like an egg off a well-greased frying pan. This ensures that indeed only the pathogenic E. coli bacteria are retained.

But how were the scientists able to corroborate that bacteria really were attached to the artificial glycocalyx? “We bonded the sugar molecules to a conductive polymer," explains Sebastian Balser, a doctoral researcher under Professor Terfort and the first author of the paper. “By applying an electrical voltage via these 'wires', we are able to read how many bacteria had bonded to the sensor." 

The study documents how effective this is: The researchers mixed pathogens from the targeted E. coli strain among harmless E. coli bacteria in various concentrations. “Our sensor was able to detect the harmful microorganisms even in very small quantities," explains Terfort. “What's more, the higher the concentration of the targeted bacteria, the stronger the emitted signals." 

The paper is initial proof that the method works. In the next step, the involved working groups want to investigate whether it also stands the test in practice. Using it in regions where there are no hospitals with sophisticated lab diagnostics is conceivable, for example.

Publication: Sebastian Balser, Michael Röhrl, Carina Spormann, Thisbe K. Lindhorst, Andreas Terfort: Selective Quantification of Bacteria in Mixtures by Using Glycosylated Polypyrrole/Hydrogel Nanolayers. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces Article ASAP; 

Picture download: 

Caption: By using a customized surface to bait the targeted pathogens, they separate by themselves from a mixture of many different bacteria. This makes it easy to detect them electrochemically. Diagram: Sebastian Balser, Andreas Terfort Research Group, Goethe University Frankfurt 

Further information
Professor Andreas Terfort Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel.: +49 (0)69 798-29181


Mar 14 2024

This year's Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prizes will be awarded at Paulskirche in Frankfurt today

How gut bacteria educate our immune system and how cancer drugs can be remote-controlled 

Physician and immunologist Dennis L. Kasper (81) of Harvard Medical School will receive the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2024, endowed with €120,000, in a ceremony held in Frankfurt's Paulskirche today. The award recognizes his discovery of the first words of the biochemical language through which bacteria that populate our colon educate our immune system, thereby ensuring its healthy development. The Early Career Award goes to chemist Johannes Karges (31) from Ruhr University Bochum for his invention of a process with which highly effective chemotherapeutic agents can only accumulate in the tumor and can only be activated there by irradiation with light or ultrasound. 

FRANKFURT. Around ten trillion bacteria live in the large intestine of every human being, which, for the most part, act as guarantors of our health. This is because over the course of evolution, relationships have developed between bacteria and their hosts from which both benefit. In return for finding an ideal habitat in the gut, the bacteria defend us against their pathogenic relatives, provide us with vitamins and nutrients or help us with digestion. This symbiosis can only succeed through continuous communication between our intestinal bacteria and our immune system. Dennis L. Kasper has decoded the first words and rules of the language in which this communication takes place. He discovered that certain bacterial molecules act as educators of the immune system and teach it not to attack useful bacteria or cells of its own body, i.e. to maintain a healthy balance between tolerance and aggression. "Dennis Kasper is the first person to succeed in uncovering communication channels in the superorganism formed by humans and their microbiome," explains, Prof. Dr. Thomas Boehm, Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation. "In doing so, he has opened the door to a field of research in which new approaches for the treatment of autoimmune diseases are already emerging." 

Cisplatin and two of its derivatives are the world's most common cancer drugs. While they show impressive success against certain types of cancer, at the same time, they quickly bring about resistance. In addition, given that they also inhibit the division of healthy body cells, they cause serious side effects. The winner of this year's Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Early Career Award, Johannes Karges, has developed a process that allows platinum-containing drugs to act exclusively in the tumor. To do so, he packages them in nanoparticles that only accumulate in the cancer tissue, where they are then activated by external irradiation with light or ultrasound. In this way, he can precisely control the use of certain cytostatic drugs in terms of both space and time – like remote-controlled magic bullets that, in the spirit of Paul Ehrlich, selectively cure the disease without harming the rest of the body. The prizewinner has already provided preclinical proof of his concept, whose translation into clinical practice could significantly increase both the efficacy and tolerability of many chemotherapies. 

Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2024 

Dennis L. Kasper has been William Ellery Channing Professor of Medicine since 1989 and Professor of Immunology at Harvard Medical School since 1997. He is co-editor of Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (currently in its 22nd edition), the world's most widely used medical textbook, of which he was editor-in-chief for the 16th and 19th editions. 

Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Early Career Award 2024 

Johannes Karges studied chemistry in Marburg and London and conducted research as a doctoral student in Paris and Guangzhou. As a postdoctoral researcher, he worked at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla. Since November 2022, he has headed a research group at Ruhr University Bochum as a Liebig Fellow of the Chemical Industry Fund. 

Further information
Press Office of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation
Joachim Pietzsch
Phone: +49 (0)69 36007188

Editors: Joachim Pietzsch/Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Tel: -49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531,


Mar 7 2024

Federal Education and Research Minister Stark-Watzinger emphasizes network’s importance for German researchers

Instruct-ERIC Director Harald Schwalbe welcomes Germany as a member of European Research Infrastructure Consortium

The Federal Republic of Germany has become the 17th member of the pan-European structural biology consortium Instruct-ERIC, it was announced today by the research infrastructures network, whose director – Prof. Harald Schwalbe – researches and teaches at Goethe University Frankfurt. Instruct-ERIC facilitates the joint establishment and operation of research infrastructures of European interest for the analysis of molecular structures, including for basic biological research and the development of active medical ingredients. The network operates on a not for profit basis, is funded by the member countries and governed by member country representatives. 

FRANKFURT. Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research, emphasizes: "The rapid and successful development of active substances against the SARS-CoV-2 virus illustrated the importance of good and trusting international cooperation among scientists, especially in the field of integrated structural biology. Exchanging information at an international level is crucial, especially when it comes to using specialist infrastructures. There are many advantages to us joining Instruct-ERIC, which not only gives our researchers access to European high-tech facilities, but also is a prerequisite for us to continue to deliver outstanding contributions to structural biology in the future." 

Prof. Harald Schwalbe, who has served as director of Instruct-ERIC since 2022, emphasizes: "Scientific institutions and companies in Germany have contributed significantly in recent years to the development and establishment of structural biology methods and technologies. As such, we recently inaugurated a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer of the latest generation at Goethe University Frankfurt, which we can use, among others, to examine flexible regions in biomolecules with high precision." 

However, Schwalbe adds that in the field of structural biology, it is not individual high-tech devices that play the most important role, but diverse and sophisticated research facilities that complement each other methodically and enable integrative research approaches. "To that end, we will establish in Germany a network of Instruct centers with associated laboratories that meet European standards, which in turn will allow access to all facilities, across locations. In addition to enabling technological advancements, Instruct-ERIC also finances and organizes research stays and trainings for researchers, thereby contributing to the education of the next generation of researchers." 

Instruct-ERIC is a pan-European distributed research infrastructure making high-end technologies and methods in structural biology available to users. ERIC stands for European Research Infrastructure Consortium, and refers to a specific legal form that facilitates the establishment and operation of research infrastructures with European interest, on a not for profit basis. ERICs are funded by subscription from member countries and governed by member country representatives. Instruct-ERIC is comprised of 17 member countries and organizations: Belgium, Czech Republic, EMBL, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom. Through its specialized research centers in Europe, Instruct-ERIC finances and organizes research stays, trainings, internships and R&D awards. By promoting integrative methods, Instruct-ERIC enables excellent scientific and technological development that benefits all life scientists. More at 

Background information:
Harald Schwalbe Appointed as New Instruct-ERIC Director (2022) 

Ultra-high field spectrometer: Newly developed device for cutting-edge research inaugurated at Goethe University Frankfurt (2023) 

Internationales Konsortium zur Erforschung von SARS-CoV-2 abgeschlossen (2022) 

Images for download: 

Caption: View of the 1.2 gigahertz NMR spectrometer at Goethe University, one of the world's largest research devices of its kind. Photo: Uwe Dettmar for Goethe University Frankfurt 

Further information
Prof. Dr. Harald Schwalbe
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel. +49 (0)69 798 29737
Twitter/X: @Schwalbe_BMRZ @goetheuni @BMBF_Bund

Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498,