Press releases – 2017


Jun 23 2017

EU funds further three networks for doctoral training at Goethe University Frankfurt

Cloud formation, infection research, ubiquitin code

FRANKFURT. The European Union is funding three new projects - Innovative Training Networks (ITN) within the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Programme - for structured doctoral training at Goethe University Frankfurt. Such projects are very attractive for universities because they are open to all scientific topics and focus on basic research.

For the CLOUD-MOTION project coordinated by atmospheric researcher Professor Joachim Curtius, Goethe University Frankfurt has been awarded funding of € 500,000. This is a follow-up project from two previous doctoral researcher networks successfully coordinated by Professor Curtius since 2008.

In CLOUD-MOTION, doctoral researchers at 10 European institutions will investigate cloud formation from aerosols and ice particles in the atmosphere and their influence on the climate. A key focus is the comparison of intact areas of the atmosphere with those polluted as a result of human activities. Research work is based on experiments in a “cloud chamber” at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in which different situations in the atmosphere can be simulated under laboratory conditions.

The ViBrANT Network, of which Goethe University Frankfurt is a member, is an interdisciplinary team of European infection researchers leading in their field worldwide. The network is working together for a better understanding of how viruses and bacteria attach to host cells. This will form the basis for developing highly specific diagnostic procedures, whereby one of the main priorities is the development of new diagnostic detection methods for multi-resistant pathogens. The 15 doctoral researchers will become acquainted with universities and industrial partners in seven European countries during their training and this will teach them how to convert findings from basic research as rapidly as possible into usable technologies that benefit patients with infectious diseases. € 500,000 have been made available for doctoral researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Goethe University Frankfurt is also involved in the UbiCODE doctoral network, which is searching for new diagnostic markers and drug targets in the ubiquitin system. This small protein found throughout the body forms unexpectedly diverse and complex chains. The contribution of these chains to the regulation of protein functions and cellular quality control is, however, far from being fully understood. Malfunctions in this system can lead to diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, inflammatory conditions and multiple infections. Goethe University Frankfurt’s share of the funding is € 250,000.

With the approval of the three new ITNs, the University is continuing it success of the past years in this funding line. In 2016, five new projects started work. 18 ITNs are currently underway at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Further information: CLOUD-MOTION: Prof. Dr. Joachim Curtius, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences and Geography, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 (0) 69 798 40258,

ViBrANT: Prof. Dr. Volkhard Kempf, Institute of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel.: +49 (0) 69 6301-5019,

UbiCODE: Prof. Dr. Ivan Dikic, Dr. Kerstin Koch, Institute of Biochemistry II, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel.: +49 (0)69 6301-84250,



Jun 21 2017

New Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group at the Faculty of Law examines EU solidarity conflicts

Can courts solve everything?

FRANKFURT. A new Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group has started work at the Faculty of Law of Goethe University Frankfurt. The team headed by Dr. Anuscheh Farahat is dealing with the role played by constitutional courts in transnational solidarity conflicts.

The global financial crisis has severely disadvantaged countries in the European Union too – and some of them have still not recovered today. To rescue the euro, the European Member States were obliged to get a grip on the debts of countries such as Greece, Spain or Portugal. This demanded and continues to demand a lot of transnational solidarity. However, coping with the crisis leads time and again to conflicts in creditor and debtor countries since it raises legal issues on both sides. For example, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court had to clarify, amongst others, to what extent the Bundestag (the German parliament) is obliged to approve Germany’s participation in relief actions; after all, budget decisions are down to parliament. In Portugal, on the other hand, what were referred to as “Troika measures”, which foresaw sharp cutbacks in employees’ income, landed before the national constitutional court, which was asked to clarify whether measures such as salary and pension cuts in the civil service were consistent with the constitution.

Are the courts the right institution to resolve such questions? Or might it not be the responsibility of a European-level entity or the parliaments? Or how else could the national courts be persuaded to take the perspective of other affected countries into account in their decisions? It is questions such as these which are being tackled by the new Emmy Noether research project “Transnational Solidarity Conflicts: Constitutional Courts as Fora for and Players in Conflict Resolution” that started recently. Project leader Dr. Anuscheh Farahat is convinced: “The crisis in the EU is in actual fact a crisis of transnational solidarity.” That is why she is investigating distribution and recognition conflicts in her project, which have become exacerbated in the EU during the course of the economic and financial crisis. Her work centres on what role national and European constitutional courts have played in these conflicts. How was the destructive potential of these conflicts institutionally channelled? Could new social order be brought about in the process? Or are other structures needed?

The Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group, which is made up of three early career researchers, will receive € 900,000 in funding from the German Research Foundation, initially until February 2020. Project leader Anuscheh Farahat studied in Frankfurt, Paris and Berkeley and completed her doctoral degree in 2011 at Goethe University Frankfurt with a thesis on migration law that has been awarded numerous prizes. In 2014 she became Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. Her research interests are European and German constitutional law, German and international migration law as well as comparative constitutional law. A main focus of her current research work is questions related to the organization of public authority in transnational judicial areas.

A picture can be downloaded from:

Caption: Dr. Anuscheh Farahat heads the new Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group at Goethe University Frankfurt. She is investigating the role of constitutional courts in European solidarity conflicts. Photo: MPIL/Maurice Weiss

Further information: Dr. Anuscheh Farahat,



Jun 13 2017

Anesthetics cause certain areas of the brain to generate less information

Why does an anesthetic make us lose consciousness?

FRANKFURT. To date, researchers assumed that anesthetics interrupt signal transmission between different areas of the brain and that is why we lose consciousness. Neuroscientists at Goethe University Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen have now discovered that certain areas of the brain generate less information when under anesthesia. The drop in information transfer often measured when the brain is under anesthesia could be a consequence of this reduced local information generation and not – as was so far assumed – a result of disrupted signal transmission between brain areas.

If only a few telephone calls are made in a city then it could be the case that several telecommunication systems have broken down – or it is nighttime and most people are asleep. The situation is similar in an anesthetized brain: if there is remarkably little information transfer between various areas of the brain then either signal transmission in the nerve fibers is blocked or certain areas of the brain are less active as far as the generation of information is concerned.

Patricia Wollstadt, Favio Frohlich, their colleagues from the Brain Imaging Center at Goethe University Frankfurt and researchers at the MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization have now investigated this second hypothesis. As they have announced in the current issue of “PLOS Computational Biology”, they used ferrets to examine “source” brain areas from which less information was transmitted under anesthesia than in a waking state. They found that information generation under anesthesia was far more affected there than in the “target” brain areas to which the information was transferred. This indicates that it is the information available in the source area which determines information transfer and not a disruption in signal transmission. Were the latter the case, a far greater reduction could be expected in the target areas since less information “arrives” there.

“The relevance of this alternative explanation goes beyond anesthesia research, says Patricia Wollstadt, “since each and every examination of neuronal information transfer should categorically take into consideration how much information is available locally and is therefore also transferable.”

Publication: Patricia Wollstadt, Kristin K. Sellers, Lucas Rudelt, Viola Priesemann, Axel Hutt, Flavio Fröhlich, Michael Wibral: Breakdown of local information processing may underlie isoflurane anesthesia effects, in PLOS Computational Biology,

A picture can be downloaded from:

Photo: Stefan_Schranz/ pixabay, CC 0

Further information: Prof. Dr. Michael Wibral, Brain Imaging Center, Faculty of Medicine, Frankfurt University Hospital, Tel.: +49(0)69-6301-83193,


Jun 2 2017

German Research Foundation approves Collaborative Research Centre on the topic of matter under extreme conditions in cooperation with the universities in Darmstadt and Bielefeld / CRC in medicine extended

Hotter than a hundred thousand suns

FRANKFURT. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved a new Transregio Collaborative Research Centre (CRC/TR) in which physicists from Goethe University Frankfurt, Bielefeld University and TU Darmstadt want to explore together “strongly interacting matter under extreme conditions”. The researchers had submitted an application for around€8 million for the next four years for this. Spokesperson for the new research alliance, which within the partnership with TU Darmstadt is also supporting the Strategic Alliance of Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) launched at the end of 2015, is Frankfurt physicist Professor Dirk Rischke.

“Extreme conditions” means high temperatures and densities such as occurred, for example, in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang: A few billion degrees Celsius (a hundred thousand times hotter than the Sun’s interior) as well as multiples of the density reached in atomic nuclei (several 100 million tons per cubic centimetre). Under these conditions, matter is dominated by what is known as strong interaction. This is one of the four fundamental forces in physics. It is responsible, amongst others, for the proton and neutron composition of atomic nuclei and for their inner structure of quarks and gluons.

Under extreme conditions, strongly interacting matter forms new types of state, comparable with the various aggregate states of water as ice, liquid and gas. Whilst this is being explored experimentally on large-scale particle accelerators such as the LHC at CERN in Geneva and in future on FAIR in Darmstadt, the new CRC/TR wants to examine the topic from a theoretical perspective.

The intention is to investigate the fundamental properties of strongly interacting matter in the framework of 14 sub-projects and apply them to the physics of the early Universe and in heavy ion experiments. The declared objective here is to start as directly as possible from the fundamental theory of strong interaction, i.e. quantum chromodynamics (QCD). This theory, for the study of which several Nobel prizes have already been awarded, has been known for over 40 years. It has, however, nonetheless proven difficult in many cases to make concrete predictions in the framework of QCD. Deriving in particular the properties of macroscopic concentrations of strongly interacting particles at high temperatures and densities from QCD was so far unsatisfactory.

What is unique about the new CRC/TR is the combination of analysis-based methods with complex numerical simulations on supercomputers of the highest performance class (“Lattice QCD”). “We are working closely together on this in order to make the best possible use of the individual approaches and different expertise at the three universities”, emphasizes Professor Dirk Rischke of Goethe University Frankfurt, the CRC’s spokesperson. Professor Jochen Wambach from TU Darmstadt, who together with Professor Frithjof Karsch from Bielefeld University is Rischke’s deputy, adds: “Many of us have known each other for a long time and have worked together successfully in the past too. However, this Transregio project is taking our collaboration to a new level.”

All three universities are equal partners and this is underlined by the fact that they have already agreed to rotate the role of CRC/TR spokesperson after each funding period, should it be successfully extended. “The complex theoretical questions as well as the experiments currently taking place or already planned in this field of research, where a lot is happening in other countries too, will stimulate a wide spectrum of research projects over the coming decade”, says Karsch. “That’s why we’re convinced we can fill the maximum 12-year duration of a CRC with interesting projects”, agree Rischke, Karsch and Wambach.

CRC in medicine extended

A CRC in the field of medicine has been extended. In the framework of CRC 1039 “Signalling by fatty acid derivatives and sphingolipids in health and disease” researchers are investigating what significance lipids (fat molecules) have as signalling molecules and how they are involved in disease processes. This means that the collaboration between Goethe University Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim can continue for the next four years.

Numerous findings in recent years indicate that lipid metabolism disorders contribute to the development and progression of diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory conditions, pain and neurodegenerative diseases. They are therefore suitable drug targets.

In the first funding period, the researchers concentrated on examining the synthesis and degradation pathways of molecules that intervene in healthy as well as disrupted lipid metabolism. The intention now in the second funding phase is to investigate these molecules, which are known as lipid mediators, in relation to specific diseases such as acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, pain or tumour development. “We want to advance research in the direction of functional consequences as well as of diagnostic and therapeutic implementation, both experimentally as well as clinically,” says Professor Josef Pfeilschifter, CRC spokesperson.


A picture can be downloaded from:


Caption: Researchers in the new CRC/TR from Bielefeld, Darmstadt and Frankfurt. In the first row: Spokesperson Prof. Dirk Rischke, Goethe University Frankfurt (centre) and deputy spokespersons Prof. Jochen Wambach, TU Darmstadt (second from the right) and Prof. Frithjof Karsch, Bielefeld University (second from the left). Photo: Hauke Sandmeyer (Bielefeld University)


Further information: Prof. Dr. Dirk Rischke, Institute of Theoretical Physics, Faculty of Physics, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49(0)69-798-47862,

Prof. Josef Pfeilschifter, Tanja Giesbrecht (secretary), Institute of General Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel.: +49(0)69-6301-6991,



May 24 2017

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have successfully combined two very advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques

Precise insight into the depths of cells

Is it possible to watch at the level of single cells how fish embryos become trout, carp or salmon? Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have successfully combined two very advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques. The new high-resolution light microscope permits fascinating insights into a cell’s interior.

Using the “light-sheet microscopy” technology invented and developed by Professor Ernst Stelzer, it was already possible to observe organisms in a very precise and vivid way during cell differentiation. His group at Goethe University Frankfurt has now combined light sheets with a technique which so far only allowed very high spatial resolutions (<100nm) on a cell’s surface. Combining both methods makes it possible to obtain a three-dimensional insight into a cell with a high resolution.

Light-sheet-based fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) is the most recent three-dimensional fluorescence microscopy technique. In fluorescence microscopy, a fraction of a cell’s molecules is labelled with fluorescent markers, which are lit up with a beam of light. A camera records the three-dimensional distribution of the fluorescing molecules, i.e. the fluorophores. The outstanding advantage of LSFM is that even sensitive samples such as fish embryos survive observation. This is a major advancement since conventional methods, which illuminate the whole sample, expose the specimens to much more energy and destroy the cells in a very short period of time.

Ernst Stelzer, professor at the Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience and a principal investigator in the Cluster of Excellence “Macromolecular Complexes” of Goethe University Frankfurt, explains that LSFM does not illuminate the entire sample but only micrometre-thin light sheets. “Since we examine the biological specimens under conditions that are as natural as possible, we achieve very precise results”, says Stelzer. However, not only static images of cells but also dynamic changes in their environment or genetic mutations can be measured in direct comparisons.

Bo-Jui Chang, Victor Perez Meza and Ernst Stelzer have now improved the technique further: “We combined light-sheet fluorescence microscopy with coherent structured illumination microscopy (SIM). This allows for an extremely high resolution”, he reports. SIM is a super-resolution technique that produces several images, which are combined digitally. As a result, resolution is improved in the physical sense. The technical approach is to excite a fluorescing sample with a very specific illumination pattern. Sub-100 nm resolutions with this method are limited to surfaces but the technique has major advantages. It is fairly moderate in the excitation of the fluorescence, allows very fast imaging and can be used with all fluorescing molecules for high-resolution purposes.

“In the new microscope, which we call csiLSFM, we have developed the principle of SIM further in such a way that sub-100 nm resolutions are no longer limited to surfaces but can also be used in extensive three-dimensional objects. Here, two counterpropagating light sheets interfere at an angle of 180° so that they form the smallest possible linear interference pattern. As a result, we achieve an optimal resolution of less than 100 nanometres,” explains Ernst Stelzer. The new instrument has three objective lenses. It works via the flexible control of rotation, frequency and phase shift of the perfectly modulated light sheet.

Images of endoplasmic reticulum of yeast, a complex membrane network of tubules, vesicles and cisterns, show that the researchers can use csiLSFM to work successfully with physiologically important objects.

Publication: Chang BJ, Perez Meza VD, Stelzer EHK (2017) csiLSFM combines light-sheet fluorescence microscopy and coherent structured illumination for a lateral resolution below 100 nm. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 114(19):4869-4874. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1609278114 (2017 May 9). Epub 2017 Apr 24.

A picture can be downloaded under:

Caption: Live yeast cell embedded in agarose. From left to right: conventional fluorescence, conventionally treated and with csiLSFM. The bar is 1 µm wide.
Photo: Stelzer Research Group, Goethe University Frankfurt
Further information: Prof. Dr. Ernst H. K. Stelzer, Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences,
Faculty of Biological Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 (69) 798 42547/42545,