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With the exception of black holes, neutron stars are the densest objects in our universe. As their name suggests, neutron stars are mainly made of neutrons. However, our knowledge about the matter produced during the collision of two neutron stars is still limited. Scientists from Goethe University Frankfurt and the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics in Pohang have now developed a new model that gives insights about matter under such extreme conditions.
FRANKFURT. After a massive star has burned its fuel and explodes as a supernova, an extremely compact object, called a neutron star, can be formed. Neutron stars are extraordinarily dense: To reach the density inside them, one would need to squeeze a massive body like our sun down to the size of a city like Frankfurt. In 2017, gravitational waves, the small ripples in spacetime that are produced during a collision of two neutron stars, could be directly measured here on earth for the first time. However, the composition of the resulting hot and dense merger product is not known precisely. It is still an open question, for instance, whether quarks, which are otherwise trapped in neutrons, can appear in free form after the collision. Dr. Christian Ecker from the Institute for Theoretical Physics of Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, and Dr. Matti Järvinen and Dr. Tuna Demircik from the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics in Pohang, South Korea, have now developed a new model that allows them to get one step closer to answering this question.
In their work, they extend models from nuclear physics, which are not applicable at high densities, with a method used in string theory to describe the transition to dense and hot quark matter. “Our method uses a mathematical relationship found in string theory, namely the correspondence between five-dimensional black holes and strongly interacting matter, to describe the phase transition between dense nuclear and quark matter", explain Dr. Demircik and Dr. Järvinen. "We have already used the new model in computer simulations to calculate the gravitational-wave signal from these collisions and show that both hot and cold quark matter can be produced", adds Dr. Ecker, who implemented these simulations in collaboration with Samuel Tootle and Konrad Topolski from the working group of Prof. Luciano Rezzolla at Goethe University in Frankfurt. Next, the researchers hope to be able to compare their simulations with future gravitational waves measured from space in order to gain further insights into quark matter in neutron star collisions.
Image for Download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/126758416
Caption: Illustration of the new method: the researchers use five-dimensional black holes (right) to calculate the phase diagram of strongly coupled matter (middle), enabling simulations of neutron star mergers and the produced gravitational waves (left).
Historian Steven E. Aschheim opens new Buber-Rosenzweig Lecture series at Goethe University
FRANKFURT. The latest lecture series introduced at Goethe University – the "Buber-Rosenzweig Lecture on Jewish Intellectual History and Philosophy" – focuses on topics related to Jewish thought in both the past and the present. Following the 2021 establishment of the Buber-Rosenzweig Institute for Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History of Modernity and the Present, the lecture series will replace the "Martin Buber Lecture", which had addressed topics of Jewish thought, history and culture since 2010 and which brought numerous renowned researchers to Frankfurt.
Preclinical models and cell culture experiments show “rejuvenation” of T cells by urolithin A – clinical trials planned
As part of an interdisciplinary project of the LOEWE Centre Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI), researchers from the Georg-Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and Goethe University Frankfurt have succeeded in identifying a new approach for the therapy of colorectal cancer. In preclinical models and studies on human immune cells, they found that urolithin A, a metabolite product from pomegranate, sustainably improves the function of immune cells in their fight against cancer. After treatment with urolithin A, tumour-fighting immune cells become T memory stem cells which, due to their ability to divide, constantly supply the immune system with rejuvenated, non-exhausted T cells.
FRANKFURT. Colorectal cancer remains a disease with high mortality rates in advanced stages. In recent years, numerous research findings have improved early diagnosis and therapy, although unfortunately not all patients respond adequately to novel therapeutic approaches. Current research suggests that one characteristic of tumour diseases is immune dysfunction: immune cells that are supposed to fight the tumour are systematically suppressed by the tissue surrounding the tumour, the tumour microenvironment. As a result, T cells, which are our body's natural immune response against cancer, are restricted in their function, allowing the tumour to grow and spread uncontrollably.
The research team led by Professor Florian Greten, Institute for Tumour Biology and Experimental Therapy and Goethe University Frankfurt, has now come a significant step closer to a possible solution to the problem. The researchers showed that urolithin A induces a biological pathway that recycles and renews mitochondria, the “powerhouse" of the cell in T cells, through a process known as mitophagy. Aged and damaged mitochondria in the T cells are removed and replaced by new, functional ones. This changes the genetic programme of the T cells, which are thus more able to fight the tumour. The researchers demonstrated the therapeutic potential of urolithin A in two ways: on the one hand, urolithin A can be used as a food in the preclinical model, which limits tumour growth and even acts synergistically with existing immunotherapy. On the other hand, the benefits of urolithin A were also observed in human T cells. In vitro treatment with urolithin A “rejuvenates" human T cells, producing memory T memory stem cells in the laboratory.
Dominic Denk, MD, physician at Frankfurt University Hospital and first author of the study, explains: “Our findings are particularly exciting because the focus is not on the tumour cell but on the immune system, the natural defence against cancer. This is where reliable therapeutic approaches are still lacking in the reality of colorectal cancer patients. By possibly improving the combination therapy with existing immunotherapies, the study opens up meaningful possibilities for further application in the clinic. We hope to use this to sustainably improve the therapy of colorectal cancer, but also of other cancers."
Building on these findings, the researchers plan to continue the successful collaboration: in future clinical trials, the application of urolithin A will be investigated in individuals with colorectal cancer.
Professor Greten, director of the Georg-Speyer-Haus and spokesperson of the Frankfurt Cancer Institute, emphasizes the necessary teamwork: “This work proves once again how successful the interdisciplinary concepts of the FCI are. We are very pleased that we can now quickly transfer our results to the clinic and look forward with great excitement to the upcoming clinical trials."
Publication: Dominic Denk, Valentina Petrocelli, Claire Conche, Pénélope A. Andreux, Chris Rinsch, Florian R. Greten: Expansion of T memory stem cells with superior antitumor immunity by Urolithin A-induced mitophagy. Immunity (2022) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2022.09.014
Picture download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/127221638
Caption: A metabolite from pomegranates boosts tumour-fighting T cells, according to a study by Georg-Speyer-Haus, Goethe University Frankfurt and the LOEWE Centre Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI). Photo: Markus Bernards
Professor Florian R. Greten
Georg-Speyer-Haus / Goethe University Frankfurt
Institute for Tumour Biology and Experimental Therapy
Tel.: +49 (0)69 63395-232
The "Rhine-Main Universities" (RMU) Strategic Alliance
Held on October 24, 2022, the fourth "Day of the Rhine-Main Universities" focused on scientists in their early career phases as well as the academic mid-level faculty. Opening up more opportunities for them is one of the core concerns of the Strategic Alliance of Rhine-Main Universities (RMU).
Following two years of pandemic, the annual “Day of the Rhine-Main Universities" was this year once again held in presence. In the preceding two years, the meetings were hosted digitally: first in 2020 by the Technical University of Darmstadt, and last year by the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. In other respects, too, the event, which drew several hundred participants from Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, went back to its pre-pandemic roots: As in 2019, Goethe University Frankfurt hosted the annual meeting on its Westend Campus, welcoming employees as well as RMU members and friends.
In previous years, the focus lay on the potential of the cross-federal state alliance (2019), teaching and learning (2020) as well as research (2021). This year, the RMU Day centered on scientists in their early career phases and the "academic mid-level staff". "Winning over these talents for the long term and upskilling hem significantly enriches every university, strengthening and sharpening its profile as well as its future viability," Goethe University President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff emphasized in his welcoming speech.
In two concise "Impulses from Politics", Ayse Asar, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts, and Dr. Denis Alt, State Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Health of the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, underlined the importance of promoting and supporting young scientists. "The future of science lies in networking and in alliances that optimally combine the strengths of individual scientific institutions. This is exactly where the three RMU universities are leading the way," said Ayse Asar, adding that, "They unite almost 10,000 scientific employees, especially doctoral students and postdocs, who are the main focus at this year's RMU Day. Without this academic mid-level staff, the universities would not be the same. That is why smart personnel development, as well as comprehensive support, qualification and advisory structures are so highly relevant. At the federal government level, we are supporting the universities both financially and structurally, including, for example, with opportunities for new career paths – such as the qualification professorship, the tenure track, or the tandem professorship – offered under the Hessian Higher Education Act, which was amended in 2021. The 'Code for Good Work' was drawn up the same year. In it, the universities commit themselves to new standards for better and more attractive working conditions."
Dr. Denis Alt, State Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Health of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, emphasized: "The Rhine-Main Universities Strategic Alliance, with the partner universities in Frankfurt, Darmstadt and Mainz, is an important building block for raising the region's national and international profile in a differentiated scientific landscape. Together, these three strong research universities can further advance the Rhine-Main region as a science engine, benefiting not only the universities, but also the federal states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. The scientific successes of recent years – in the joint acquisition of third-party funding, for instance – prove that the universities are on the right track. We want to do everything in our power to support them."
In her keynote address, Prof. Dr. Marlis Hochbruck of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and former vice president of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), also put the promotion of early-career scientists at the "center of science(s)".
At the same time, however, it also became clear that the early career years of scientists are by no means characterized only by hope and a sense of optimism: At this stage of their lives, many scientists feel particularly burdened by economic uncertainty, the question of whether an existing or future family can be reconciled with a career, obstacles to the realization of ambitious research interests and a generally uncertain future. This was also the topic of a panel discussion between four representatives of university management, scientists in their early career phases and the RMU support structures for so-called “early career researchers".
This "public" part of the RMU Day was followed by a varied program of workshops and project presentations of RMU cooperations. The workshops dealt with specific funding opportunities within the RMU at both the national and the European level, alternative career paths to ministries, other authorities and NGOs, and ways of freeing oneself of the "Impostor Syndrome", i.e. massive self-doubt regarding one's own abilities, achievements and successes. In a networking meeting on the topic of sustainability, members of the departments overseeing sustainability at the three universities exchanged views on "Education for Sustainable Development".
At the end of the event, Prof. Dr. Tanja Brühl, President of the Technical University of Darmstadt, Goethe University President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff, and Prof. Dr. Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President of Research and Academic Growth at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, drew a positive yet differentiated balance: "Although universities are unable to take away some of the burdens faced by scientists at the early stages of their career, they can take many measures to make this phase easier: through targeted advice tailored to individual needs, a wide range of high-quality training opportunities, networking options and tangible support. These are all the more effective when universities do not act on their own, but as part of an alliance, using the resources available to them."
This is precisely what the RMU sets out to do: It wants to be a true "space full of opportunities". To that end, President Schleiff announced the establishment of a (virtual) exchange platform for RMU postdocs, which will also provide information to external parties and present the existing funding measures in a manner befitting the target group. "As RMU, we want to attract young scientists in Germany and worldwide – because we need their creativity, their esprit, their curiosity and their courage."
Vice President Müller-Stach presented the plans for the further development of the professional skills program offered by the RMU funding institutions: GRADE (Frankfurt), Ingenium (Darmstadt) and Gutenberg School (Mainz). "We will continue to expand the joint program for scientists in their early career phases. By bundling our strengths at RMU, scientists will be able to make more flexible use of the offerings."
President Brühl presented a new joint funding line of the RMU Initiative Fund Research, designed exclusively for RMU scientists in their early career phase: By networking within the RMU, they are now eligible for up to 30,000 in financial support. "We want to promote the creative and courageous project ideas of our early career researchers and encourage them to network and cooperate more closely within the Rhine-Main Universities Strategic Alliance – whether through joint publications, project proposals or in the field of science communication," Brühl explained. Finally, in keeping with tradition, she invited all guests to the next RMU Day, to be held in Darmstadt in 2023. "I am very much looking forward to welcoming you all next year at TU Darmstadt to discuss another facet of our alliance's further development." At the end of the day, all three university representatives agreed: For scientists in the early career phase, RMU is becoming the ideal starting point for building independent careers.
Further information: www.rhein-main-universitaeten.de
Photos for download: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/127146666Caption: Representatives of the RMU universities as well as science and politics at the fourth "Day of the Rhine-Main Universities", held at Goethe University (from right to left): host Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff, Goethe University President; Prof. Dr. Denis Alt, State Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Health of Rhineland-Palatinate; Prof. Dr. Marlis Hochbruck, Professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and former DFG Vice President; Ayse Asar, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art; Prof. Dr. Stephan Jo lie, Vice President for Studies and Teaching at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz; Prof. Dr. Tanja Brühl, President of the Technical University of Darmstadt; and Prof. Dr. Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Young Academics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. (Photo: Uwe Dettmar/Goethe University)
New economics research unit established at Goethe University
Singles, couples, single parents, families with one child or with several – private households can look very different. A new research unit at Goethe University wants to find out how the individual behavior of households influences the overall economic situation and family policy – and vice versa.
FRANKFURT. The way in which income, consumption and wealth are distributed in an economy has a lot to do with decisions made within individual households. The research unit "Macroeconomic Implications of Intra-Household Decisions" will take a close look at the behavior of individual household members with regard to consumption, employment and investment opportunities, and explore their interaction. The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG) will fund the research with 2.44 million euros for an initial period of four years. The spokesman of the research group, which consists exclusively of Frankfurt economists, is Prof. Alexander Ludwig, Professor of Public Finance and Macroeconomic Dynamics at Goethe University. The other members are Georg Dürnecker, Professor of International Trade, Development and Growth; Leibniz Prize winner Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Professor of Macroeconomics and Development; Leo Kaas, Professor of Economics, in particular Macroeconomics and Labor Markets, and the research unit's deputy spokesperson; as well as junior researchers Chiara Lacava and Dr. Zainab Iftikhar, who also specialize in research related to labor and family economics.
"Traditional macroeconomic models do not take into account the dynamics in private households, each of which is represented by a single member. Using complex economic models, we can now introduce interactions between the individual household members into macroeconomic models," explains Prof. Ludwig, adding that, in this way, the group's research will contribute to gaining an even better understanding of the microeconomic foundations of macroeconomics. The group intends to examine the topic of inequality not just between, but also within individual households – including, for example, the unequal distribution of income between men and women.
The research is divided into eight projects, each of which will address different topics. As such, one of them focuses on the question of how the possibility of freezing eggs and thus postponing the realization of the desire to have a child can influence women's work biographies. Some companies offer to cover the costs of this procedure to keep the workforce in the company. But what is the impact on women, or on the economy as a whole? Other topics include the effects of the intra-family division of labor on the income situation of individuals, and the interrelation between housing policy measures and families' housing decisions.
The researchers hope their work will fundamentally enrich our knowledge of how economic measures work, and in how far tax and transfer payments influence decisions on labor supply, savings, fertility and housing demand. In so doing, they will examine the measures' macroeconomic efficiency as well as their distributional effects. To illustrate these relationships, the research will focus, for example, on the extent to which labor-market specialization of one partner in a family – caused, e.g., by the birth of a child or by tax policy measures such as spousal splitting tariffs (as prevalent in Germany) – leads to greater inequality between men and women, and the extent to which this either has a negative impact on overall economic efficiency – by reducing women's labor force participation, for instance – or in fact has a positive effect, since greater specialization increases the labor productivity of the household's main breadwinner.
Photos for download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/126914376
Caption: Economist Prof. Alexander Ludwig the spokesman of the new research unit "Macroeconomic Implications of Intra-Household Decisions". (Photo: Dettmar)Further information
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