Press releases – May 2019

 

May 22 2019
13:32

EU-Project BRIGHTER sets its sights on 3D bioprinting systems with light sheet lithography

Producing tissue and organs through lithography

FRANKFURT. The production of artificial organs is a hot research topic. In the near future, artificial organs will compensate for the lack of organ donations and replace animal experiments. Although there are already promising experiments with 3D printers that use a "bio-ink" containing living cells, a functional organ has never been created in this way. A European consortium coordinated by Dr Elena Martinez (IBEC, Barcelona, Spain) and involving the Goethe University Frankfurt is now breaking new ground. The consortium is developing a lithography method that relies on light sheet illumination and on special photosensitive hydrogels that are mixed with living cells. 

Bio-printing systems that build up structures layer by layer (bottom-up approach) have considerable disadvantages. On the one hand, the printing process takes far too long, so that the survival chances of the cells in the bio-ink and in the polymerised layers considerably decrease. Furthermore, the extrusion pressure leads to a considerable cell death rate, especially for stem cells. In addition, the resolution of the method, around 300 micrometers, is far too low to reproduce the delicate structures of natural tissue. Finally, it is particularly difficult to integrate complex hollow structures, e.g. blood vessels, into the cell tissue. 

"With our project, we want to go the other way round by developing a top-down lithography method," explains Dr. Francesco Pampaloni from the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at Goethe University. The process works in a similar way to lithography in semiconductor technology. Instead of the semiconductor and the photosensitive layer, which is illuminated by a mask, a hydrogel with photosensitive molecules is used. This is exposed to a thin laser light sheet using the technique invented by Prof. Ernst Stelzer for light sheet microscopy. This leads to the formation of branched chain structures (polymers) that serve as a matrix for colonisation by living cells. The remaining, still liquid hydrogel is washed out. 

"This method will enable us to adjust the spatial structure and the stiffness with an unprecedented resolution so that we can create the same heterogeneous microstructures that cells find in natural tissues," explains Pampaloni. Pampaloni expects that completely new possibilities will emerge for the bio-fabrication of complex tissues and their anatomical microstructures. In addition, the specific properties of the matrix can be used to introduce stem cells into well-defined compartments or to enable the formation of vessels. Further advantages over conventional 3D printing systems are high speed and cost-effective production. 

BRIGHTER stands for "Bioprinting by light sheet lithography: engineering complex tissues with high resolution at high speed". Starting in July 2019, the project will be funded for three years as part of the European Union's renowned and highly selective "Future and Emerging Technologies" (FET) Open Horizon 2020 Programme. BRIGHTER will be financed with a total of € 3,450,000, of which € 700,000 will go to a team led by Dr. Pampaloni in Prof. Stelzer's Physical Biology Group in the Biosciences Department of the Goethe University. Further partners are the IBEC (Barcelona, Spain, coordination), Technion (Haifa, Israel) and the companies Cellendes (Reutlingen, Germany) and Mycronic (Täby, Sweden). 

An image may be downloaded here: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/78299401
Caption: Light sheet bio-printing. A hydrogel composed of living cells and photosensitive molecules is deposited in a special cuvette. A thin laser light sheet illuminates the gel following a programmed pattern (green beam). This leads to the formation of 3D micro-structures that reproduce the tissue architecture and function. The remaining, still liquid hydrogel is washed out after the printing process.
Credit: F. Pampaloni, BRIGHTER, 2019 

Further information: Dr Francesco Pampaloni, Physical Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Phone: (069) 798-42544, fpampalo@bio.uni-frankfurt.de, https://www.physikalischebiologie.de/people/francesco-pampaloni

 

May 22 2019
08:17

Study proves effectiveness of new psychotherapy / publication in JAMA Psychiatry

Help for youth who have experienced sexual or physical abuse

FRANKFURT. There have not been many scientifically evaluated therapies for teens and young adults who have suffered physical or sexual abuse until now. Psychologists at Goethe University have closed the gap by developing a psychotherapeutic approach designed specifically for this age group. Its effectiveness has now been proved in a nationwide study lasting four years. 

About four to 16 percent of children in Western countries experience physical abuse; the percentage that experiences sexual abuse is between five and ten percent. Victims suffer from constraints in many areas of their lives as a consequence, and are at increased risk for mental illness as well, especially post-traumatic stress disorder. This is associated with stressful symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, sleep disorders and irritability. Things and situations that recall the traumatic events are often avoided. However, early treatment can help prevent long-term consequences. 

The team led by Dr Regina Steil, Senior Academic Council at the Institute of Psychology at Goethe University, developed a developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy specializing on the situations and needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21. It consists of 30 to 26 sessions over four to five months and is subdivided into four treatment phases. After a period of getting to know the therapist, the teens first learn to regulate their emotions and apply strategies for dealing with stress. Only after this do they begin to process their thoughts and feelings about the sexual or physical abuse and gradually regain a sense of security and control. 

A study funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has now demonstrated that this new form of psychotherapy effectively reduces psychological stress. The study was led by Professor Rita Rosner, Chair for Clinical and Biological Psychology at the Catholic University Eichstätt, and encompassed treatment locations in Berlin (Babette Renneberg), Frankfurt (Regina Steil) and Ingolstadt (Rita Rosner). First results were published in the American Medical Association's “JAMA Psychiatry", which is one of the most renowned scientific psychiatric journals worldwide. 

In the study, the young patients were randomly assigned either to the new psychotherapy or to a treatment that is usual in Germany. The control group was given the option to be treated according to the new therapy once the study was completed. Toward the end of the therapy, or waiting period, the groups were compared with regard to psychological stress. The group that received the new therapy demonstrated significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than the control group. Symptoms of other mental disorders, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, were also improved to a greater degree in this group. These differences were still evident three months after therapy conclusion. “The successful clinical trial of this new treatment represents an important step toward improving the treatment situation of traumatized youth and teens," summarises Dr Regina Steil. 

Publication: Rosner R, Rimane E, Frick U, et al. Effect of developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy for youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after childhood sexual and physical abuse: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2019.   doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4349 

Further Information: Dr Regina Steil, Institute for Psychology, Faculty 5, Bockenheim Campus, Phone.: +49 69 798-23379 , steil@psych.uni-frankfurt.de

 

May 20 2019
11:45

A new project at Goethe University examines reconstruction after 1945 in newsreels and documentaries 

Film images of war ruins 

FRANKFURT. How did post-war non-fiction films – newsreels and documentaries – represent wartime deconstruction and reconstruction efforts? How did these films trigger public debate and influence the formation of European post-war societies? These issues are the focus of a research project in film studies at Goethe University in cooperation with colleagues in Italy, France and the Czech Republic, due to launch next week. The project is being funded at approximately € 1 million within the framework of the European HERA programme. 

Public spaces were the focus of the HERA programme's 6th funding call. HERA stands for Humanities in the European Research Area. The programme, which is funded within the framework of the EU research funding programme Horizon 2020, focuses particularly on the humanities. Submitted applications were required to deal with the culture and integration of public spaces in Europe. 

“Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe“ is the title of the project with which Professor Vinzenz Hediger from Goethe University and his colleagues from France, Italy and the Czech Republic were successful. With the plan to investigate war destruction and reconstruction in non-fiction film from 1949 to 1953, they were able to assert themselves along with 21 other projects out of a total of 300 applicants, and to exhaust almost the entire funding amount of a maximum of one million euros. The German subproject, which is also responsible for the coordination, will receive approximately half of this sum. The funds come mostly from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 

Frankfurt is an ideal central location for this research in film studies: the city on the Main was heavily damaged, and debates have taken place here over reconstruction vs. starting new like in hardly any other city in Europe – to this day. The project, however, will concentrate on the years following the war: there is a lot of material to be examined. To gain access to this material the four principal investigators – in addition to Hediger, Professor Francesco Pitassio in Udine (Italy), Dr. Lucie Cesalkova in Prague and Professor Sylvie Lindeperg in Paris – have recruited the assistance of the national film archives. With their expertise and equipment, the material can be digitised and made available to a wider scientific community, says Hediger.

The project focuses on public spaces such as the Römer in Frankfurt, marketplaces and other politically relevant places. Both formal and substantive aspects will be examined: how many aerial photographs are there? Can repeating elements be determined? Are there symbols that repeatedly surface in the debate? What effect did filmic reporting and documentation have on the debate? What are the differences and commonalities among the various European countries? “Our hypothesis is that these films not only presented, but also made a massive contribution," says Hediger. Public spaces play a central role in democracy, as does their presentation in the media. In addition to the three principal investigators, one or two postdocs each will be involved in the project. 

The kick-off meeting to begin the three-year research project took place on 9th and 10th May in Frankfurt. The research team successfully developed workflows and refined research tools, which includes the creation of a sophisticated research database and the outlines of the main deliverable of the project, the Virtual Exhibition, a multi-lingual, film based educational experience which will be attached to the European Film Gateway 

Further Information: Prof Vinzenz Hediger, Professor for Film Studies, Institute for Drama, Film and Media Studies, Faculty 10, Westend Campus, Tel. +49 (0)69 798-32079: +49 (0) 151 644 188 35, hediger@tfm.uni-frankfurt.de