Press releases

 

Nov 21 2018
09:18

Friedrich Merz Visiting Professor Donald Ingber cultivates miniature organs on microchips

What are the alternatives to animal testing?

FRANKFURT. How predictive are animal models for the human body? Which human organs can be recreated in vitro? How can personalized medicine benefit from patient-specific organ systems in the future? These questions are the focus of this year’s Friedrich Merz Visiting Fellowship Endowment with Donald Ingber, who will visit Goethe University from Harvard University for one week at the beginning of December. Ingber develops miniature, living organ systems of human cells for investigating diseases and testing new therapies. 

The bioengineering expert developed methods for engineering living human cells on microchips as miniature, three-dimensional organs. These models often deliver more precise results than animal tests, whose predictability for the human body is limited. In addition, they represent a trendsetting option for testing novel drug substances in the laboratory. In cancer therapy, patient-specific tumor cells are cultivated in vitro in order to find a personalized and effective treatment of the individual cancerous disease. 

Professor Ingber and Professor Maike Windbergs, who investigates alternatives to animal testing at Goethe University, will present these fascinating new approaches in a clear and understandable way using film material and examples from research and clinical practice in a podium discussion for the general public

Podium discussion: Human organs and diseases in vitro – fiction or realistic alternative to animal testing?
When: 6th December (Thursday) at 6:00 pm
Where: the Arkadensaal at Goethe House, Großer Hirschgraben 23-25, 60311 Frankfurt. 

Additional podium guests include State Animal Welfare Officer for Hessen Dr. Madeleine Martin and Merz Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Stefan Albrecht. Merz is among the pioneers in the development of in vitro tests for Botolinum toxin.

In a symposium on Wednesday 5th December, international experts will discuss “Modelling health and diseases; form in vitro design to future therapies” (Location: Biozentrum, Riedberg Campus, Hörsaal B1, 9 am – 5 pm). The experts include Professor Andries von der Meer from the Twente University in Enschede, Netherlands. He designs artificial blood vessels on chips and uses them to replicate the process of thrombosis. Professor Ernst Reichmann from the Children’s Clinic in Zurich will present clinical studies on the development of artificial skins for burn victims. The presentation by Professor Stefan Hippenstiel from the Charité in Berlin will discuss the use of human lung tissue to simulate infections in the lung.

Goethe University will be represented by the following experts: Professor Florian Greten, Speaker of the Frankfurt Cancer Institute, who will talk about the use of test systems with human cancer cells for preclinical substance tests and in personalized medicine. Dr. Manuel Kaulich from the Institute for Biochemistry II will report on how he uses the gene scissors CRISPR/Cas for the large-scale screening of substances in order to counter resistances in cancer treatment. Professor Ernst Stelzer from the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences at Goethe University and his research group investigates spheroids based on pancreatic cells to test new therapies for type I diabetes. For the first time, three young postdoctoral students in pharmacy and medicine will introduce their work in brief presentations.

Donald Ingber will also give a lecture for students on 6th December at 10:00 am on the same topics (location: Otter-Stern-Centre, Riedberg Campus, HS 3). It will be followed by a one-hour discussion with questions prepared by pharmacy students in their 8th semester.

Professor Donald Ingber is founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Tissue engineering is just one of his many areas of research, which also encompass mechanobiology, tumor angiogenesis, systems biology and nanobiotechnology and translational medicine. He has received numerous awards for his creative ideas. In 2015, the journal “Foreign Policy” elected him as “Leading Global Thinker” and his “Organ-on-the-Chip” technology was awarded “Design of the Year” by the London Design Museum. Ingber holds 150 patents and has founded five companies.

Members of the press will have the opportunity to interview Donald Ingber and other experts on the day of the symposium (5th December). Please contact Professor Maike Windbergs for scheduling: +49 (0) 69 798-42715, windbergs@em.uni-frankfurt.de .

Further information: Professor Maike Windbergs, Institut für Pharmazeutische Technologie, Faculty 14, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 (0) 69 798-42715, windbergs@em.uni-frankfurt.de.
http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/Friedrich-Merz-Stiftungsgastprofessur

 

Nov 19 2018
10:15

Successful cooperation between De Gruyter, the FID Jewish Studies (Specialized Information Services Program) and Knowledge Unlatched Frankfurt/Berlin

Open Access: 20 Titles from the field Jewish Studies now openly accessible

FRANKFURT/BERLIN. The Fachinformationsdienst (FID) Jewish Studies and De Gruyter present 20 titles from the field of Jewish Studies Open Access. The e-books have been made openly accessible through Knowledge Unlatched and its "KU Reverse" model. The title list contains important works from the fields of history, Jewish studies and literature, including fundamental works such as the "Handbuch der deutsch-jüdischen Literatur" (Handbook of German-Jewish Literature) edited by Hans Otto Horch and "Die Sprache der Judenfeindschaft im 21. Jahrhundert" (The Language of Antisemitism in the 21st Century) by Monika Schwarz-Friesel and Jehuda Reinharz. The titles can be accessed on Open Access portals such as OAPEN and library catalogues. Together with other freely accessible ebooks, the 20 titles can be found on the publisher's website.

The FID Jewish Studies at the JCS University Library Frankfurt/Main is directed by Dr. Rachel Heuberger and has replaced the former special collections "Science of the Jews" and "Israel". The aim is to provide the specialist community with research-relevant literature, but also to develop innovative research tools. "The free provision of these titles was particularly important to us, as they are used by our scientists in cooperation with other institutions all over the world. The acquisition barrier has previously made academic work more difficult," says Dr. Rachel Heuberger, head of FID Jewish Studies at Frankfurt University Library.

"The cooperation with FID Jewish Studies is a promising start for us to further expand Open Access in this programme segment. We look forward to continuing to work constructively on new models in future in dialogue with our partners in order to promote the idea of free accessibility and easy retrieval of scientific results," says Martin Rethmeier, Editorial Director History at De Gruyter.

Further information:
FID Jewish Studies: Dr. Rachel Heuberger Head of FID Jewish Studies Phone: +49 69 798 39665 r.heuberger@ub.uni-frankfurt.de www.jewishstudies.de
De Gruyter Eric Merkel-Sobotta Communications Phone: +49 30 260 05 304 mailto:ems@degruyter.com www.degruyter.com 
Knowledge Unlatched: Philipp Hess Phone: +49 176 239 230 94 philipp@knowledgeunlatched.org; www.knowledgeunlatched.org

FID Jewish Studies: The Fachinformationsdienst Jüdische Studien der Frankfurter Universitätsbibliothek (Jewish Studies Special Information Service of the Frankfurt University Library) provides subject-specific information as well as electronic and printed resources for science and research. The search portal (www.jewishstudies.de) offers central access to the entire spectrum of Jewish Studies / Israel Studies and thus enables optimal research.

De Gruyter: De Gruyter has been publishing first-class scientific works for over 260 years. The international publishing house is headquartered in Berlin and has further offices in Boston, Beijing, Basel, Warsaw, Vienna and Munich. De Gruyter publishes over 1,300 new book titles and more than 900 journals annually in the humanities, social sciences, medicine, mathematics, technology, computer sciences, natural sciences and law, and also offers a wide range of digital media. The publishing group includes the imprints De Gruyter Akademie Forschung, Birkhäuser, De Gruyter Mouton, De Gruyter Oldenbourg, De Gruyter Saur, De|G Press, Deutscher Kunstverlag (DKV), Düsseldorf University Press and the publishing service provider Sciendo. For further information, please visit: www.degruyter.com.

Knowledge Unlatched: Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is committed to free access to academic content for readers around the world. The KU online platform serves as a central point of contact for libraries worldwide to support Open Access models, publication collections of leading publishing houses, and new Open Access initiatives. For more information, please visit: http://www.knowledgeunlatched.

 

Nov 12 2018
08:57

The cosmochemist Professor Alexander Krot (University of Hawaii) is coming to Goethe University as recipient of the Humboldt Research Award

Improving understanding of how the solar system is formed

FRANKFURT. The observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii is world-famous. Less well-known is the fact that the Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the leading institutes for cosmochemistry, the Institute for Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP). One of its scientists is the renowned cosmochemist Professor Alexander Krot, and he is now coming to Goethe University for half a year as Humboldt researcher. 

Professor Frank Brenker, geophysicist at Goethe University has been working successfully with Professor Alexandor Kort for years. This gave Krot the impetus to temporarily take leave from his Institute for Geophyscis and Planetology (HIGP) on Hawaii, where a large number of powerful measuring instruments are at his disposal for the examination of extraterrestrial material. As recipient of the Humboldt Research Award he will be working in Frankfurt am Main for six months. 

At the Institute for Geosciences at Goethe University, Krot will be working both in teaching and research. He is especially interested in nanoscale analytical methods using transmission electron microscopy and synchrotron radiation, an area in which Frank Brenker specializes. 

Alexander Krot made a particular name for himself through his work on the formation of the first solid bodies of our solar system. Numerous fundamental insights into the childhood of the solar nebula are based on his research. With more than 160 publications, of which 14 are in “Nature” or “Science”, his scientific body of work is impressive. 

Krot is not only one of the most influential and successful researchers in the area of cosmochemistry, the science of the formation and distribution of chemical elements and compounds in the solar system – he is also an excellent teacher. He can now pass on his knowledge directly in several bachelor and master projects at the same time. “It’s a unique opportunity for our students to be able to work with such an internationally successful researcher this early in their careers,” reports Brenker with pleasure. “Some of them are already familiar with Mr. Krot from his many groundbreaking publications, and it is naturally exciting for them to now be able to discuss things directly with him.”

Images to download can be found at: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/74667310
Captions:
Image1: Prof. Dr. Alexander Krot (Copyright: Krot)
Image 2: Off-colour image with magnesium in red, calcium in green, and aluminum in blue. This colour selection was introduced by Alexander Krot for an optimal depiction of the early formations in the solar system. Pictured here is a calcium-aluminum-rich inclusion in the meteorite Efremovka. CAIs are the oldest solid body formation in our solar system. They are 4.567 billion years old, the same age as our solar system. (Copyright: Krot)
Image 3: An artist’s depiction of the solar nebula. (Copyright: NASA/JPL)

Further information: Professor Frank Brenker, Institute for Geosciences, Mineralogy, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49(0)69 798-40134, f.brenker@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Nov 7 2018
10:43

Cancer researcher Dr. Sjoerd van Wijk receives € 222,500 from the German Research Foundation

Improving the understanding of death receptor functions in cells

FRANKFURT. Whether defective cells in the body will live or die is determined by a sophisticated control system. Death receptors play important roles in this system and translate information from outside the cell into critical cellular responses, which are often deregulated in diseases like cancer and inflammation. Cancer researcher Dr. Sjoerd van Wijk from Goethe University will investigate how these receptors function at the molecular level in a new research project which will receive €222,500 in funding over the next three years from the German Research Foundation (DFG). 

An effective regulation of programmed cell death is crucial for the correct development of embryos, a working innate immune system, and the prevention of cancer. How cells control the switch between cell survival and death, and which signalling pathways are involved, remain unclear. Proteins that interact with death receptors in these signalling pathways are often marked with various forms of ubiquitin chains, such as linear (M1) and K63-linked polyubiquitin chains. Deubiquitinating enzymes, which specifically break down ubiquitin chains, play a central role in the regulation of these chains, death receptor signalling, and cell fate.

“In our project, we want to investigate the network of M1-deubiquitinating enzymes and interactions with death receptor signalling in mammalian cells in order to understand the fundamental role of the ubiquitin in cell death or survival,” explains Sjoerd van Wijk, group leader at the Institute of Experimental Cancer Research in Pediatrics. The ultimate goal is to understand human diseases, in particular how cancer develops and spreads, and how cells protect themselves against invasive bacteria.

In his research group, van Wijk pursues multidisciplinary approaches using state-of-the-art technology. Through collaborations with Dr. Manuel Kaulich (CRISPR/Cas9 Screening Centre at Goethe University), he has access to highly efficient screening methods to unravel the molecular events that control death receptor function. The analysis of these molecular complexes is also being supported by the ubiquitin mass spectrometry at the Institute for Biochemistry II at Goethe University (Prof. Dr. Ivan Dikic) and at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Mainz (Dr. Petra Beli), as well as by the high-resolution microscopy at the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at Goethe University (Prof. Dr. Mike Heilemann). 

An image may be downloaded at: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/74652845
Credit: Dr. Sjoerd van Wijk

Further information: Dr. Sjoerd van Wijk, Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel. +49 69 67866574, Email: s.wijk@kinderkrebsstiftung-frankfurt.de.

 

Nov 5 2018
09:02

The behaviour of the nematode provides important clues for the evolution of food-motivated behaviour in higher animals

Is foraging behaviour regulated the same way in humans and worms?

How does our nervous system motivate us to get off the sofa and walk to the fridge, or even to the supermarket, to get food? A research team led by Alexander Gottschalk from Goethe University investigated this using the threadworm Caenorhabditis elegans. The results indicate how foraging behaviour in higher animals might have evolved. 

Finding food and staying at a food source are crucial survival strategies in the animal world. But how are external feeding signals on the molecular, cellular and neuronal circuit level transformed into behaviour? To find out, neuroscientists often resort to less complex model species such as the nematode C. elegans. It only has 302 nerve cells and its network of connections has been precisely mapped, allowing scientists to investigate in detail how its nerve cells communicate with each other to achieve certain types of behaviour.   

Alexander Gottschalk and his team focused in this study on a neuronal circuit involving a pair of sensory nerve cells that detect the presence of food, and release the neuromodulator dopamine. This dopamine signal affects two types of downstream neurons, termed DVA and AVK and, as the team discovered, it does so in opposing ways. Dopamine activates DVA, promoting dwelling and local search behaviour, while inhibiting AVK, which promotes dispersal and long-range search behaviour. Specifically, this takes place by DVA and AVK signalling to further downstream motoneurons, which in turn control muscle activity. 

But what conclusions does this allow regarding foraging in higher animals such as humans? In the worm, the DVA neuron modulates locomotion by signalling to motoneurons via the neuropeptide NLP-12. Mammals have an equivalent to NLP-12, the neuropeptide cholecystokinin. Its release is also regulated by dopamine signalling, for example in reward-related behaviour like feeding. This shows that during evolution, the importance of dopamine and the neuropeptide cholecystokinin/NLP-12 as neuromodulators has been conserved. They influence motivated behaviour in the search for food intake, but also other actions, if rewarding sensations can be actively gained by certain behaviours. 

The neuron AVK, which acts as an antagonist to the DVA neuron, releases a neuropeptide called FLP-1 in the absence of food. FLP-1 acts as a counterpart to NLP-12/cholecystokinin in the worm. Although FLP-1 is more likely to be invertebrate-specific, similar 'RF-amide' neuropeptides are found in mammals, where they also control food intake. 

Thus, similar inhibitory balancing of cholecystokinin signalling may also be found in mammals. The C. elegans neuron types identified in this study may thus provide important guidance in the search for similar cell types in mammals where myriads of cells mediate similar mechanisms of motor control.

Publication 

Oranth et al.: Alexander Gottschalk et al.: Food sensation modulates locomotion by dopamine and neuropeptide signaling in a distributed neuronal network, in: Neuron 100, 1–15; December 19, 2018. (online November 1st, 2018)

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.10.024

You can download images here: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/74664380

Image 1: The nematode C. elegans. Credit: Alexander Gottschalk, Goethe-Universität
Image 2: Nematode feeding tracks. Credit: A. Oranth
Image 3: Neuronal circuit controlling foraging behaviour by C. elegans. Creidt: A. Bergs, A. Gottschalk.

Further information:

Professor Alexander Gottschalk, Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences and Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, Faculty 14, Max-von-Laue Strasse 15, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 69 798 42518, a.gottschalk@em.uni-frankfurt.de