The 2021 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers
The course for organ health is set in the early embryo. This year's laureate has shown that specialized immune cells from the yolk sac accompany organ development and contribute to maintaining their health throughout life. For Elvira Mass, impaired function of these immune cells might cause many diseases.
Frankfurt am Main. Developmental biologist
Professor Elvira Mass, Ph.D. from the Life and Medical Sciences Institute
(LIMES) at the University of Bonn, receives the 2021 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig
Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers, which is endowed with €60,000. The award ceremony in
Paulskirche, which is traditionally held on March 14th, Paul Ehrlich's
birthday, has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Elvira Mass will be
honored next year together with the award winners of 2022.
For organs to stay healthy and functional, they must be constantly surveilled for abnormalities. Until a few years ago, it was believed that this task is performed by immune cells originating from the bone marrow. In a series of elegant genetic labelling experiments, Mass has shown that these cells are mainly yolk sac-derived progenitor cells that migrate to the developing organs, where they immediately differentiate and self-maintain for a lifetime. The reason for their longevity is still a mystery. These immune cells are referred to as tissue-resident macrophages and belong to our innate immune system. Their primary job is to scavenge anything that does not belong to a healthy organ. However, they also produce a broad range of bioactive molecules and growth factors, ensuring that tissues are not only 'tidy' but grow, develop, and function.
"The special achievement of Elvira Mass is to have contributed to an important change in perspective when looking at the function of organs," writes the Scientific Council, chaired by Professor Thomas Boehm, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, in substantiating its decision. “In order to understand how organs develop and what keeps them healthy, one no longer only looks at the bone marrow, but also at the yolk sac and thus at a completely different population of macrophages. This observation has important implications for medicine, because organ-specific defects might be associated with malfunctioning tissue-resident macrophages originally derived from the yolk sac".
Mass has provided evidence for the health-promoting function of resident macrophages in the mouse brain. Her attempt to manipulate microglia, as the brain-specific macrophages are called, were stimulated by the findings in patients suffering from a rare form of cancer called histiocytosis. This cancer arises from mutated macrophages, which multiply out of control. Many patients suffering from histiocytoses eventually develop neurodegenerative symptoms or behavioural deficits. Mass introduced the mutation typical for histiocytosis specifically into yolk sac-derived tissue-resident macrophages of mice and followed the development of the animals. She found that the mutated microglia cells no longer carried out their traditional tasks but instead attacked and eliminated neurons in their vicinity. Eventually, this led to paralysis demonstrating that mutated microglia can cause neurodegeneration in mice.
With funding recently awarded by the European Research Council, Mass will investigate which environmental factors change the epigenetic imprinting of the yolk sac-derived tissue-resident macrophages and how these changes affect the health of organs. To this end, she will, among other things, examine the influence of nanoplastics on macrophages. Particles that are smaller than 500 nanometers enter the embryo's blood via the placenta and could potentially damage the supporting function of the tissue-resident macrophages.
Short biography of Professor Dr. Elvira Mass
Elvira Mass (34) studied biology at the University of Bonn and did her Ph.D thesis at the Life and Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) in Bonn. In 2014, she moved to Frederic Geissmann's laboratory at King's College in London and followed him a few months later to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. From there she returned to the LIMES Institute in 2017 as a group leader. In 2019, she became W2 Professor for "Integrated Immunology" at the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg. In 2020, she switched to a W2 / W3 professorship at the LIMES Institute. Mass has received several awards, including the Heinz Maier Leibnitz Prize in 2020, which is considered the most important award for young scientists in Germany.
Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig
Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers
The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers, awarded for the first time in 2006, is conferred once a year by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation on a young investigator working in Germany for his or her outstanding achievements in the field of biomedical research. The prize money must be used for research purposes. University faculty members and leading scientists at German research institutions are eligible for nomination. The selection of the prizewinner is made by the Scientific Council on a proposal by the eight-person selection committee.
The Paul Ehrlich Foundation
The Paul Ehrlich Foundation is a legally dependent foundation which is managed in a fiduciary capacity by the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, Frankfurt. The Honorary Chairman of the Foundation, which was established by Hedwig Ehrlich in 1929, is Professor Dr. Katja Becker, president of the German Research Foundation, who also appoints the elected members of the Scientific Council and the Board of Trustees. The Chairman of the Scientific Council is Professor Thomas Boehm, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, the Chair of the Board of Trustees is Professor Dr. Jochen Maas, Head of Research and Development and Member of the Management Board, Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH. Professor Wilhelm Bender, in his function as Chair of the Association of Friends and Sponsors of the Goethe University, is Member of the Scientific Council. The President of the Goethe University is at the same time a member of the Board of Trustees.
You can obtain selected publications, the list of publications and a photograph of the prizewinner from Dr. Hildegard Kaulen, phone: +49 (0) 6122/52718, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.paul-ehrlich-stiftung.de.
Background on the award of the 2021 Paul Ehrlich
and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers to Professor Elvira Mass,
Collaboration between Goethe University and the University of Oklahoma
For the first time, an international team of scientists from Goethe University and the University of Oklahoma has succeeded in filming quantum physical effects on a helium dimer as it breaks apart. The film shows the superposition of matter waves from two simultaneous events that occur with different probability: The survival and the disintegration of the helium dimer. This method might in future make it possible to track experimentally the formation and decay of quantum Efimov systems (Nature Physics, DOI 10.1038/s41567-020-01081-3).
entering the world of quantum physics must prepare themself for quite a few
things unknown in the everyday world: Noble gases form compounds, atoms behave
like particles and waves at the same time and events that in the macroscopic
world exclude each other occur simultaneously.
In the world of quantum physics, Reinhard Dörner and his team are working with molecules which – in the sense of most textbooks – ought not to exist: Helium compounds with two atoms, known as helium dimers. Helium is called a noble gase precisely because it does not form any compounds. However, if the gas is cooled down to just 10 degrees above absolute zero (minus 273 °C) and then pumped through a small nozzle into a vacuum chamber, which makes it even colder, then – very rarely – such helium dimers form. These are unrivaledly the weakest bound stable molecules in the Universe, and the two atoms in the molecule are correspondingly extremely far apart from each other. While a chemical compound of two atoms commonly measures about 1 angstrom (0.1 nanometres), helium dimers on average measure 50 times as much, i.e. 52 angstrom.
The scientists in Frankfurt irradiated such helium dimers with an extremely powerful laser flash, which slightly twisted the bond between the two helium atoms. This was enough to make the two atoms fly apart. They then saw – for the very first time – the helium atom flying away as a wave and record it on film.
According to quantum physics, objects behave like a particle and a wave at the same time, something that is best known from light particles (photons), which on the one hand superimpose like waves where they can pile upor extinguish each other (interference), but on the other hand as “solar wind” can propel spacecraft via their solar sails, for example.
That the researchers were able to observe and film the helium atom flying away as a wave at all in their laser experiment was due to the fact that the helium atom only flew away with a certain probability: With 98 per cent probability it was still bound to its second helium partner, with 2 per cent probability it flew away. These two helium atom waves – Here it comes! Quantum physics! – superimpose and their interference could be measured.
The measurement of such “quantum waves” can be extended to quantum systems with several partners, such as the helium trimer composed of three helium atoms. The helium trimer is interesting because it can form what is referred to as an “exotic Efimov state”, says Maksim Kunitski, first author of the study: “Such three-particle systems were predicted by Russian theorist Vitaly Efimov in 1970 and first corroborated on caesium atoms. Five years ago, we discovered the Efimov state in the helium trimer. The laser pulse irradiation method we’ve now developed might allow us in future to observe the formation and decay of Efimov systems and thus better understand quantum physical systems that are difficult to access experimentally.”
Publication: Maksim Kunitski, Qingze Guan, Holger Maschkiwitz, Jörg Hahnenbruch, Sebastian Eckart, Stefan Zeller, Anton Kalinin, Markus Schöffler, Lothar Ph. H. Schmidt, Till Jahnke, Dörte Blume, Reinhard Dörner: Ultrafast manipulation of the weakly bound helium dimer. In: Nature Physics, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-020-01081-3
Pictures to download:
Caption: Dr Maksim Kunitski next to the COLTRIMS reaction microscope at Goethe University, which was used to observe the “quantum wave”. (Photo: Uwe Dettmar for Goethe University)
Caption: Professor Reinhard Dörner (left) and Dr Maksim Kunitzki in front of the COLTRIMS reaction microscope at Goethe University, which was used to observe the quantum wave. (Photo: Goethe University Frankfurt)
Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt had recently reported in an article and a press release on the influence of the active substance loperamide on cell death in brain tumour cells. As a result, the German Brain Tumour Centres have received numerous enquiries about the therapeutic use of loperamide in patients with brain tumour diseases.
It should be noted, however, that the underlying research is based solely on cell culture models. Under no circumstances can recommendations for the treatment of humans be derived from the results. In addition to intestinal sluggishness, loperamide can cause severe and life-threatening side effects, especially when used in higher doses or not as intended.
The authors of the research article and the focus of neuro-oncology at the University Cancer Center (UCT) therefore strongly advise against the use of loperamide in brain tumour patients (beyond the indication of diarrhoea).
Director University Cancer Center Frankfurt (UCT), University Hospital Frankfurt
Director of the Dr. Senckenbergischen Institute for Neuro-Oncology, UCT, University Hospital Frankfurt
Sjoerd J. L. van Wijk, Ph.D.
Institute of Experimental Cancer Research in Paediatrics , UCT, University Hospital Frankfurt
FRANKFURT. The research group led by Dr Sjoerd van Wijk from the Institute of Experimental Cancer Research in Paediatrics at Goethe University already two years ago found evidence indicating that the anti-diarrhoea drug loperamide could be used to induce cell death in glioblastoma cell lines. They have now deciphered its mechanism of action and, in doing so, are opening new avenues for the development of novel treatment strategies.
When cells digest themselves
In certain types of tumour cells, administration of loperamide leads to a stress response in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the cell organelle responsible for key steps in protein synthesis in the body. The stress in the ER triggers its degradation, followed by self-destruction of the cells. This mechanism, known as autophagy-dependent cell death occurs when cells undergo hyperactivated autophagy. Normally, autophagy regulates normal metabolic processes and breaks down and recycles the valuable parts of damaged or superfluous cell components thus ensuring the cell’s survival, for example in the case of nutrient deficiency. In certain tumour cells, however, hyperactivation of autophagy destroys so much cell material that they are no longer capable of surviving.
“Our experiments with cell lines show that autophagy could support the treatment of glioblastoma brain tumours,” says van Wijk. Glioblastoma is a very aggressive and lethal type of cancer in children and adults that shows only a poor response to chemotherapy. New therapeutic approaches are therefore urgently required. The research group led by van Wijk has now identified an important factor that links the ER stress response with the degradation of the ER (reticulophagy): The “Activating Transcription Factor” ATF4 is produced in increased amounts both during ER stress and under the influence of loperamide. It triggers the destruction of the ER membranes and thus of the ER.
Anti-diarrhoea drug triggers cell death in glioblastoma cells
“Conversely, if we block ATF4, far fewer cells in a tumour cell culture die after adding loperamide,” says van Wijk, describing the control results. In addition, the research group was able to detect ER debris in loperamide-treated cells under the electron microscope. “ER degradation, that is, reticulophagy, visibly contributes to the demise of glioblastoma cells,” says van Wijk. The team also showed that loperamide triggers only autophagy but not cell death in other cells, such as embryonic mouse fibroblasts. “Normally, loperamide, when taken as a remedy against diarrhoea, binds to particular binding sites in the intestine and is not taken up by the bowel and is therefore harmless”.
Mechanism of action also applicable to other diseases
The loperamide-induced death of glioblastoma cells could help in the development of new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of this severe form of cancer. “However, our findings also open up exciting new possibilities for the treatment of other diseases where ER degradation is disrupted, such as neurological disorders or dementia as well as other types of tumour,” says van Wijk. However, further studies are necessary before loperamide can actually be used in the treatment of glioblastoma or other diseases. In future studies it has to be explored, for example, how loperamide can be transported into the brain and cross the blood-brain barrier. Nanoparticles might be a feasible option. The research team in Frankfurt now wants to identify other substances that trigger reticulophagy and examine how the effect of loperamide can be increased and better understood.
The research group led by Sjoerd van Wijk is funded by the Frankfurt Foundation for Children with Cancer (Frankfurter Stiftung für krebskranke Kinder) and the Collaborative Research Centre 1177 “Molecular and Functional Characterisation of Selective Autophagy” funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). The work is the result of collaboration with Dr Muriel Mari and Professor Fulvio Reggiori (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) and Professor Donat Kögel (Experimental Neurosurgery, Goethe University).
Publication: Svenja Zielke, Simon Kardo, Laura Zein, Muriel Mari, Adriana Covarrubias-Pinto, Maximilian N. Kinzler, Nina Meyer, Alexandra Stolz, Simone Fulda, Fulvio Reggiori, Donat Kögel and Sjoerd van Wijk: ATF4 links ER stress with reticulophagy in glioblastoma cells. Taylor & Francis Online https://doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2020.1827780
Caption: In glioblastoma cells, the antidiarrheal drug loperamide triggers the degradation of the endoplasmic reticulum. In the normal state, it is coloured yellow in these microscopic images. In the degradation state, it glows as a red signal (marked with arrows). Left scale bar: 20 µm, right scale bar (inset): 5 µm (Photos: Svenja Zielke et. al.)
Dr. Sjoerd J. L. van Wijk
Institute of Experimental Cancer Research in Paediatrics
Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Tel.: +49 69 67866574
Researchers at universities in Frankfurt and Tübingen have developed and empirically evaluated a new teaching concept for teaching secondary physics.
The topic of electricity often poses difficulties for many secondary school students in physics lessons. Physics Education Researchers at the Goethe University and the University of Tübingen have developed and empirically evaluated a new, intuitive curriculum as part of a major comparative study. The result: not only do secondary school students gain a better conceptual understanding of electric circuits, but teachers also perceive the curriculum as a significant improvement in their teaching.
TÜBINGEN. Life without electricity is something that is no longer imaginable.
Whether it be a smartphone, hair-dryer or a ceiling lamp – the technical
accomplishments we hold dear all require electricity.
Although every child at school learns that electricity can only flow in a
closed electric circuit, what is actually the difference between current and
voltage? Why is a plug socket a potential death-trap but a simple battery is
not? And why does a lamp connected to a power strip not become dimmer when a
second lamp is plugged in?
Research into physics education has revealed that even after the tenth grade many secondary school students are not capable of answering such fundamental questions about simple electric circuits despite their teachers' best efforts. Against this backdrop, Jan-Philipp Burde, who recently became a junior professor at the University of Tübingen, in the framework of his doctoral thesis supervised by Prof. Thomas Wilhelm at Goethe University, developed an innovative curriculum for simple electric circuits, which specifically builds upon the everyday experiences of the students. In contrast to the approaches taken to date, from the very outset the new curriculum aims to help students develop an intuitive understanding of voltage. In analogy to air pressure differences that cause an air stream (e.g. at an inflated air mattress), voltage is introduced as an “electric pressure difference" that causes an electric current. A comparative study with 790 school pupils at secondary schools in Frankfurt showed that the new curriculum led to a significantly improved understanding of electric circuits compared to traditional physics tuition. Moreover, the participating teachers also stated that using the new curriculum fundamentally improved their teaching.
The two researchers from Frankfurt and Tübingen have now published a detailed description of the theoretical considerations underlying the teaching concept in the renowned international journal “Physical Review Physics Education Research" in the framework of the “Focused Collection: Theory into Design". The German Society for Chemistry and Physics Education (GDCP) awarded its “GDCP-Nachwuchspreis", a prize presented each year for the best dissertation or post-doctoral thesis in chemistry and physics education in the German-speaking region, to Burde for his dissertation. As of the winter semester 2019/20 Burde was appointed to a junior professorship for Physics Education Research supported by the Vector Foundation at the University of Tübingen. On the basis of his work a cross-border consortium encompassing the Universities Tübingen, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Dresden, Graz and Vienna has been constituted with the objective of making the subject of “simple electric circuits" more interesting and more comprehensible by embedding the topic in contexts from daily life.
Jan-Philipp Burde and Thomas Wilhelm (2020). Teaching electric circuits with a focus on potential differences. In: Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 16, 020153, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.16.020153
Jan-Philipp Burde (2018): Konzeption und Evaluation eines Unterrichtskonzepts zu einfachen Stromkreisen auf Basis des Elektronengasmodells. Studien zum Physik- und Chemielernen, Band 259, Logos-Verlag, Berlin, ISBN: 978-3-8325-4726-4, http://doi.org/10.30819/4726
Caption: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Jan-Philipp Burde, University of Tübingen. Photo: Friedhelm Albrecht for University of Tübingen
Caption: Prof. Dr. Thomas Wilhelm, Goethe University Frankfurt. Photo: Felix Richter
Prof. Dr. Thomas Wilhelm
Department of Physics Education Research
Goethe University Frankfurt
Phone: +49 69 798-47845
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Jan-Philipp Burde
Physics Education Research Group
University of Tübingen
Phone: +49 7071 29 78651
The Indian writer will talk in the lecture series In Transit|ion.
On 22 January, the Indian writer Arundhati Roy will be the featured guest speaker in the renowned "In Transit|ion" lecture series at Goethe University Frankfurt. The series is an international and transdisciplinary programme offered by the Institute of English and American Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt. In the Zoom event:
"The syntax of everyday injustice" on 22.01.2021
10:00h - 12:00h CET (Central European Time)
14:30h - 16:30h IST (India Standard Time)
Roy will read from her new work, forms the basis for the subsequent discussion, moderated by Dr. Pavan Malreddy, research associate at the Institute of English and American Studies. The event will be held in English.
Arundhati Roy is the author of the award-winning bestseller "The God of Small Things," published in 1997, in which she writes of the connections between the caste system, class society, capitalism and imperialism. In the years between the publication of her first and second critically acclaimed novel, which appeared two decades later, she mainly wrote literary and political essays and confronted Indian society on a variety of topics: religious persecution, economic inequalities, caste and class hierarchies, the exploitation of natural resources and the resulting expropriation of small farmers in the name of development.
Her extensive non-fiction work including "The Politics of Power," and "From the Workshop of Democracy," and her second novel "The Ministry of Extreme Happiness" explain how capitalism and privatisation undermine democracy, destroy the environment and irreversibly accelerate climate change. Both her novels and her non-fiction work are the subject of lively, sometimes heated, scientific debates both inside and outside India. Her works are read today in more than forty languages.
Roy is an outspoken critic of communalism and majoritarianism in Indian politics. Her concise analysis of grassroots fascism and the ideological breeding ground it needs to flourish in Indian society and elsewhere forms the basis of her most recent work "Azadi - Freedom, Fascism, Fiction" (2020).
The lecture series "In Transit|ion - Frankfurt Lectures in Literary and Cultural Studies" is an international and transdisciplinary series organised by the Institute of English and American Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt. Twice a semester, leading writers and scholars from the English-speaking world present their work in the fields of American Studies, English Studies and Anglophone Literatures and Cultures. Since its inception in 2016, the series has featured speakers from top international universities in Great Britain (Oxford, Cambridge), the U.S. (Columbia, Chicago), Australia (Monash University) and India (North Bengal).
Please register for the event by e-mail: email@example.com
Dr. Pavan Malreddy, New English Literatures and Cultures (NELK) &
Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform (FMSP)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.