Press releases

 

Oct 4 2018
08:49

Excellence strategy: Joint project between Justus-Liebig-University, Goethe University and Max-Planck-Institute clears the last hurdle

Success in Excellence Strategy: Cardiovascular Researchers in Frankfurt and Giessen are delighted

FRANKFURT/GIESSEN. With their joint application for an excellence cluster, Goethe University Frankfurt and Justus-Liebig-University Giessen asserted themselves successfully against strong competition. The German Research Foundation announced on 27th September, that the “Cardiopulmonary Institute” (CPI) application, along with 56 other Excellence Cluster projects nationwide, will receive funding for the next seven years.

University President Professor Birgitta Wolff says: “Congratulations to our colleagues in Frankfurt, Giessen and Bad Nauheim, who fought with great success for their scientific ideas and concepts with an excellent application amid a field of strong competitors. The culture of cooperation that has emerged over the course of nearly twelve years among the partners was undoubtedly a decisive moment for this achievement. The formal foundation as an interuniversity institute is new, as is a more developed substantive approach. This latest achievement demonstrates that the effort and investment put into university cardiovascular research paid off.”

Professor Stefanie Dimmeler, lead scientist for Goethe University, emphasizes: “We are thrilled about this huge success which would not have been possible without the support of our great team. The funding of the ‘Cardiopulmonary Institute’ will allow us to create a centre that is unique worldwide with the goal of better understanding heart and lung diseases and identifying new therapeutic options.”

Heart and lung diseases are among the most frequent causes of death worldwide, with multiple interactions between the two organs and challenges in treatment that have yet to be resolved. A coherent understanding of the molecular biology of the individual and cooperative cellular processes, which constitute the foundation of these organs’ homeostasis and their failure in the course of disease, is lacking along with the knowledge of how these processes could be used for new, individualized therapy concepts.

The consortium of the three partners consisting of basic and medical scientists and clinicians has already made fundamental contributions to cardiovascular research and therapeutic developments within the framework of the previously funded Excellence Cluster Cardio-Pulmonary System (ECCPS). The newly approved institute pursues new structural and programmatic paths with the vision of precision biology being the motor for precision medicine. This success is simultaneously an important signal for the sustained development of research strategy at Goethe University.

The joint institute is an interuniversity facility in accordance with §47 of the Hessen Higher Education Act. Within a short time, several new professorships and junior research groups will be set up to further strengthen work in future fields of cardio-vascular research. The CPI will finance cutting edge technologies and flexible innovation programs. The CPI Academy supports research-oriented teaching and promotes academic career development, such as a “science track” for medical students, support of MD and PhD programmes, the financing of career programmes for basic, medical and clinical researchers, and a mentoring programme.

With the new Excellence Cluster, the three partners also strengthen the scientific profile of the region, further enhancing its status in the area of cutting-edge medical research.

 

Oct 4 2018
08:14

Cardiovascular Researcher Dr. Nuno Guimarães Camboa founds a junior research group at Goethe University with €1.25m

From California to the Main

FRANKFURT. Following ten years at the renowned University of California San Diego (UCSD), cardiovascular researcher Dr. Nuno Guimarães Camboa is coming to Goethe University. He was lured by the DZHK (German Centre of Cardiovascular Research), which has 28 locations in Germany, one of which is Goethe University. The native Portuguese has been awarded a DZHK junior research group grant and will receive € 1.25m in the next five years to create a research group dedicated to basic research on cardiovascular diseases. 

A transcription factor is at the centre of Dr. Nuno Guimarães Camboa’s work. This is a protein which supports the copying of the DNA of the genetic code, “translating” it to RNA. From his previous research projects at the University of California, the junior researcher knows that a specific transcription factor, TBX18, is typically present in three cell types: smooth muscle cells that are found in vessel walls, pacemaker cells in the sino-atrial node (the structure responsible for setting the rhythm of cardiac contraction), and activated connective tissue cells in the injured heart. All three cell types are involved in dangerous cardiovascular diseases: dilations of the aorta (aortic aneurysms), cardiac arrhythmias and morbid proliferation of connective tissue in the heart (cardiac fibrosis). 

“We believe that TBX18 affects these cells’ functions”, says Guimarães Camboa. “This factor could therefore play a role in certain cardiovascular diseases.” With his DZHK junior research group at the Goethe University Frankfurt, he wants to investigate which genes are regulated by the transcription factor. The biologist is also planning the targeted inactivation of TBX18 in the relevant cell types. The consequences of this inactivation on the function of the cells will subsequently be closely analysed. “We thus want to better understand the signalling networks active in specific types of cardiovascular disease and hope to thereby improve their early detection and treatment”, explains Guimarães Camboa. 

Guimarães Camboa is coming to the DZHK partner site at Goethe University after ten years in the US. He both completed his doctorate and carried out a four-year PostDoc at the University of California. He previously concentrated on the heart’s formation during embryonic development. 

With the junior research groups, the DZHK wants to attract talented and qualified young scientists from Germany and abroad, and provide them with scientific independence early on. In addition to leading a research group, the young scientists also have teaching duties, so that they can qualify for a professorship. 

Further information: Dr. Nuno Guimarães Camboa, Institute for Cardiovascular Regeneration, University Hospital Frankfurt, ncamboa@med.uni-frankfurt.de

Image may be downloaded at: www.uni-frankfurt.de/73850305 
Photo: private

 

Oct 1 2018
13:26

The second generation of an extremely energy-efficient supercomputer model is currently being developed at Goethe University

“Green” supercomputer for science

FRANKFURT. A new supercomputer, on course to set new standards in the field of green IT, is currently being developed at Goethe University under the leadership of Professor Volker Lindenstruth (professorship for supercomputer architecture). The tremendously energy-efficient computer, whose development costs are comparatively low, is based on a large number of high-performing, interconnected graphic cards, and a cooling system that utilizes river water from the Main. The water cooling system lowers the primary energy use for cooling to just about 8 %. Other computing centres require six to ten times this amount of energy for cooling. In 2014, a supercomputer built according to the Lindenstruth’s construction principle achieved the number one slot in the world ranking of energy-efficient supercomputers.

The new GOETHE supercomputer in the Industrial Park Höchst, which is to be realized according to a construction principle further optimized yet similar to its predecessor, will be constructed in two phases. The first construction phase will be concluded by 13th December 2018 and cost approximately € 4.5m. The total costs amounting to € 7.5m will be financed by 50% from federal funds and by 50% from Goethe University and FIAS funds.

The result will be a supercomputer with 18,880 highly interconnected computing cores at its first stage. This translates into a tripling of the computing performance of the preceding model, the LOEWE-CSC, which also began operation in the Industrial Park Hoechst at the end of November 2010. At the time, it was the most energy-efficient supercomputer in Europe according to the international ranking “Green 500”.

On Monday in Frankfurt, Hessen Minister of Higher Education, Research and the Arts, Boris Rhein said: “The GOETHE supercomputer is crucial in order to realize research projects in the natural sciences, medicine, life sciences and economics. … With the approved funding, Goethe University will receive € 3.75m for half of the total costs of € 7.5m. This is an impressive achievement. The state of Hessen supported Goethe University’s application, because high performing computing capacities are essential for Hessen as science location.”

Professor Simone Fulda, Vice President for Research and Academic Infrastructure at Goethe University, states: “Goethe University began the realization of its own high-performance computer centre with significant financial effort many years ago, which was finally able to be built in the Industrial Park Hoechst. It was our good fortune to gain a specialist for supercomputers at Goethe University in the person of Volker Lindenstruth. He developed his own, extraordinarily efficient computer model that is setting standards in this area today and is in demand worldwide. The new Goethe supercomputer clearly continues this development line into the future. We look forward to presenting the completed first construction phase of our new supercomputer to the public on 13th December on location at the Industrial Park Hoechst.”

Professor Volker Lindenstruth, architect of the “Goethe Supercomputer“ emphasises: “The new Goethe supercomputer represents the fulfilment of a vision. High-performance computing is normally extremely expensive and energy-intensive. Thanks to our particularly efficient construction principle, we were able to decrease energy and operation costs to a minimum. This is particularly good news for increasingly IT-intensive science: we can provide maximum computing performance at costs that only would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

 

Sep 6 2018
15:33

Professor Frank Brenker has been appointed to the preliminary investigative team of the aerospace agency JAXA

First samples from the asteroid Ryugu will come to Frankfurt

The geoscientist Frank Brenker and his team will be among the first scientists to examine material from the asteroid Ryugu. It is currently being orbited by the Japanese aerospace agency JAXA’s space probe Hayabusa 2. The Japanese had originally intended to carry out the preliminary investigations themselves. 

Ryugu (English: dragon palace) is a class C asteroid, among the most ancient objects in our solar system. Scientists believe it has not changed significantly over the past 4.56 billion years and can therefore offer a glimpse into our solar system’s childhood. Scientists around the world are therefore awaiting these unique samples with anticipation. When they are brought to earth by the space probe in 2020, Frank Brenker from the Institute of Geoscience at the Goethe University will be among the first non-Japanese scientists to examine the unique material first-hand. He and two of his Belgian colleagues have been appointed to the mission’s preliminary investigative team. 

Investigating the solar system’s formation with super microscopes
The Frankfurt geoscientist and his team have developed a new measuring procedure with super microscopes that allows a three-dimensional and non-contact inspection of material. These super microscopes work with synchrotron radiation (high energy X-rays) and make it possible to inspect the chemical composition and structure of matter without destroying it. “We are world-wide leaders in measuring the contents of rare earth elements, which are of great significance for geoscientific and cosmochemical interpretation,” Brenker explains. The precise, high resolution technology was developed over the past several years by his team at the DESY in Hamburg. 

Picture material may be downloaded under:

www.uni-frankfurt.de/73604264

Caption: The asteroid Ryugu from an altitude of 6 km photographed by the “Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic (ONC-T)”. Image from 20 July 2018.

Image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo and collaborators.

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

 

Sep 6 2018
15:21

Heart MRT improves diagnosis of cardiac involvement in lupus

Patient-friendly and accurate

Systemic inflammatory diseases, such as lupus, often cause cardiac damage that goes undetected. An international research team headed by the Institute for Experimental and Translational Cardiovascular Imaging at the University Hospital Frankfurt was now able to show that cardiac damage can be diagnosed in a patient-friendly way by heart imaging– ahead of the clinical symptoms.

The number of diagnoses of systemic lupus erythematodes (SLE) has tripled over the past 45 years – due in part to improved diagnostic methods. Lupus is a systemic inflammatory disease which can affect several organs; most frequently the kidneys, skin, brain and the heart. Involvement of the heart is important as it determines these patients’ outcome, yet as it carries on silently for a long time, it may go undetected and untreated for a long time.

Heart involvement in lupus: disguised symptoms

This problematic situation has several causes. First, the natural course of lupus-caused heart disease often has few or no symptoms - this ‘subclinical course’ represents a major challenge for doctors to recognize it. It also affects mostly young, and predominantly female patients, for whom heart disease is not usual in the first place. Moreover, if symptoms occur, they are not classical symptoms of heart disease, such as angina.  More commonly, symptoms are ‘atypical’: in other words, they do not explicitly indicate heart disease. Examples of symptoms are tiredness, dyspnoea, or sharp pain of the chest wall. Lupus patients are also frequently overwhelmed by symptoms in other organ systems, especially the kidneys, which are significantly more pronounced. This results in focus unintentionally being taken away from the heart during diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, a small percentage of patients develops heart failure, which is often resistant to therapy.

Study allows non-invasive diagnosis

A study by the University Hospital Frankfurt in collaboration with partners from London and Tübingen has shown that imaging with cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) can improve detection of subclinical cardiac injury in lupus patients. The study was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, the top journal in the field of rheumatology, whose specialists most frequently look after patients with lupus. In the present study, the authors demonstrated that inflammation of heart muscle and the vessels is the defining underlying pathophysiological mechanism of heart injury and impairment in lupus patients, and not, as previously assumed, as a result of the accelerated atherosclerotic blockage of the coronary blood vessels. The research team developed and validated an imaging signature of disease presence and activity of involvement. Thus, they have shown that heart inflammation can be detected and monitored in a non-invasive way without radiation using CMR imaging. Furthermore, CMR imaging can help to adjust the anti-inflammatory treatment to treat the heart involvement directly.

Potential for paradigm change

The study has significant potential for a real change in the clinical care of heart involvement in patients with lupus: away from the less sensitive, highly invasive and radiation-intensive methods toward patient-friendly and secure diagnostic approaches, which are non-invasive, radiation-free, and aside from the baseline investigation,  also largely free from contrast agents. The new diagnostic method informs the treating physicians accurately about the disease presence, stage and severity, and gauges the treatment response.

Course of the study

Ninety-two patients with lupus were examined using the CMR imaging; 78 healthy individuals served as a control group. This multicentre and multidisciplinary study was headed by Dr Valentina Puntmann from the Institute for Experimental and Translational Cardiovascular Imagery (Goethe CVI) at the University Hospital Frankfurt and builds on a decade-long record of investigation into cardiac inflammation by non-invasive imaging in systemic inflammatory diseases. In addition to the Goethe CVI, University Hospital Frankfurt’s Rheumatology, Cardiology and Radiology were also involved.

Successful Imaging

The heart muscle, its volume, and function were examined in all participants using CMR imaging. Various other blood values, such as troponin and NT-proBNP, which serve as biomarkers for heart impairment, were also examined. These markers were raised in 81 percent of lupus patients, but only in eight percent to a degree we usually see in the course of a heart attack. However, CMR imaging was able to point towards the presence of relevant inflammation of heart muscle much more frequently, making it more suited to detect inflammation, even if the blood tests remain only mildly raised. In addition, changes to the clinical activity can be more quickly detected using the imaging than with blood values, as these may remain raised for weeks on end. There are no disadvantages to CMR, as no invasive procedures or radiation are involved.

Publication: Winau, Lea et al. (2018): High-sensitive troponin is associated with subclinical imaging biosignature of inflammatory cardiovascular involvement in systemic lupus erythematosus. In: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-213661. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30077990"

Further information: Dr. Valentina Puntmann, Institute for Experimental and Translational Cardiovascular Imaging (Goethe CVI), University Hospital Frankfurt, Tel   + 49 69 63 01 – 86 76 0,E-Mail: valentina.puntmann@kgu.de, www.cardiac-imaging.org/valentina-puntmann.html