Press releases – 2019

 

May 22 2019
08:17

Study proves effectiveness of new psychotherapy / publication in JAMA Psychiatry

Help for youth who have experienced sexual or physical abuse

FRANKFURT. There have not been many scientifically evaluated therapies for teens and young adults who have suffered physical or sexual abuse until now. Psychologists at Goethe University have closed the gap by developing a psychotherapeutic approach designed specifically for this age group. Its effectiveness has now been proved in a nationwide study lasting four years. 

About four to 16 percent of children in Western countries experience physical abuse; the percentage that experiences sexual abuse is between five and ten percent. Victims suffer from constraints in many areas of their lives as a consequence, and are at increased risk for mental illness as well, especially post-traumatic stress disorder. This is associated with stressful symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, sleep disorders and irritability. Things and situations that recall the traumatic events are often avoided. However, early treatment can help prevent long-term consequences. 

The team led by Dr Regina Steil, Senior Academic Council at the Institute of Psychology at Goethe University, developed a developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy specializing on the situations and needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21. It consists of 30 to 26 sessions over four to five months and is subdivided into four treatment phases. After a period of getting to know the therapist, the teens first learn to regulate their emotions and apply strategies for dealing with stress. Only after this do they begin to process their thoughts and feelings about the sexual or physical abuse and gradually regain a sense of security and control. 

A study funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has now demonstrated that this new form of psychotherapy effectively reduces psychological stress. The study was led by Professor Rita Rosner, Chair for Clinical and Biological Psychology at the Catholic University Eichstätt, and encompassed treatment locations in Berlin (Babette Renneberg), Frankfurt (Regina Steil) and Ingolstadt (Rita Rosner). First results were published in the American Medical Association's “JAMA Psychiatry", which is one of the most renowned scientific psychiatric journals worldwide. 

In the study, the young patients were randomly assigned either to the new psychotherapy or to a treatment that is usual in Germany. The control group was given the option to be treated according to the new therapy once the study was completed. Toward the end of the therapy, or waiting period, the groups were compared with regard to psychological stress. The group that received the new therapy demonstrated significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than the control group. Symptoms of other mental disorders, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, were also improved to a greater degree in this group. These differences were still evident three months after therapy conclusion. “The successful clinical trial of this new treatment represents an important step toward improving the treatment situation of traumatized youth and teens," summarises Dr Regina Steil. 

Publication: Rosner R, Rimane E, Frick U, et al. Effect of developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy for youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after childhood sexual and physical abuse: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2019.   doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4349 

Further Information: Dr Regina Steil, Institute for Psychology, Faculty 5, Bockenheim Campus, Phone.: +49 69 798-23379 , steil@psych.uni-frankfurt.de

 

May 20 2019
11:45

A new project at Goethe University examines reconstruction after 1945 in newsreels and documentaries 

Film images of war ruins 

FRANKFURT. How did post-war non-fiction films – newsreels and documentaries – represent wartime deconstruction and reconstruction efforts? How did these films trigger public debate and influence the formation of European post-war societies? These issues are the focus of a research project in film studies at Goethe University in cooperation with colleagues in Italy, France and the Czech Republic, due to launch next week. The project is being funded at approximately € 1 million within the framework of the European HERA programme. 

Public spaces were the focus of the HERA programme's 6th funding call. HERA stands for Humanities in the European Research Area. The programme, which is funded within the framework of the EU research funding programme Horizon 2020, focuses particularly on the humanities. Submitted applications were required to deal with the culture and integration of public spaces in Europe. 

“Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe“ is the title of the project with which Professor Vinzenz Hediger from Goethe University and his colleagues from France, Italy and the Czech Republic were successful. With the plan to investigate war destruction and reconstruction in non-fiction film from 1949 to 1953, they were able to assert themselves along with 21 other projects out of a total of 300 applicants, and to exhaust almost the entire funding amount of a maximum of one million euros. The German subproject, which is also responsible for the coordination, will receive approximately half of this sum. The funds come mostly from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 

Frankfurt is an ideal central location for this research in film studies: the city on the Main was heavily damaged, and debates have taken place here over reconstruction vs. starting new like in hardly any other city in Europe – to this day. The project, however, will concentrate on the years following the war: there is a lot of material to be examined. To gain access to this material the four principal investigators – in addition to Hediger, Professor Francesco Pitassio in Udine (Italy), Dr. Lucie Cesalkova in Prague and Professor Sylvie Lindeperg in Paris – have recruited the assistance of the national film archives. With their expertise and equipment, the material can be digitised and made available to a wider scientific community, says Hediger.

The project focuses on public spaces such as the Römer in Frankfurt, marketplaces and other politically relevant places. Both formal and substantive aspects will be examined: how many aerial photographs are there? Can repeating elements be determined? Are there symbols that repeatedly surface in the debate? What effect did filmic reporting and documentation have on the debate? What are the differences and commonalities among the various European countries? “Our hypothesis is that these films not only presented, but also made a massive contribution," says Hediger. Public spaces play a central role in democracy, as does their presentation in the media. In addition to the three principal investigators, one or two postdocs each will be involved in the project. 

The kick-off meeting to begin the three-year research project took place on 9th and 10th May in Frankfurt. The research team successfully developed workflows and refined research tools, which includes the creation of a sophisticated research database and the outlines of the main deliverable of the project, the Virtual Exhibition, a multi-lingual, film based educational experience which will be attached to the European Film Gateway 

Further Information: Prof Vinzenz Hediger, Professor for Film Studies, Institute for Drama, Film and Media Studies, Faculty 10, Westend Campus, Tel. +49 (0)69 798-32079: +49 (0) 151 644 188 35, hediger@tfm.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Apr 24 2019
12:21

Ivan Dikic from Goethe University elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 

Joining the company of Albert Einstein and Michelle Obama 

FRANKFURT. Professor Ivan Dikic, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry II, has been elected to the venerable American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Birgitta Wolff, Goethe University President, congratulated the physician and biochemist: “I am proud that following Jürgen Habermas, a second scientist from Goethe University has now been accepted to the Academy's illustrious society." 

From more than 1,300 nominations, the Academy appoints 200 new members each year from science, the arts, business, government and public affairs – including, this year, former First Lady Michelle Obama. Dikic has been elected as one of 23 international honorary members in the field of biological sciences, within which he has been recognised in more than one section. He is being honoured for his work in deciphering the role of ubiquitination and autophagy as quality control pathways in cells 

“I am deeply honoured to join this circle of distinguished personalities," Dikic said. “My gratitude goes to all past and present members of my lab, my mentors, and colleagues at Goethe University and to my family for their enduring support and friendship. I also wish to send a message to new generations stressing that science is an amazing profession where we can explore new ideas freely, enrich our creativity by curiosity, benefit society and have fun by sharing knowledge and working together with students and colleagues around the world." 

“One of the reasons to honour extraordinary achievement is because the pursuit of excellence is so often accompanied by disappointment and self-doubt," said David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1789, the Academy's members include Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), the anthropologist Margaret Mead (1948), the economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966) and actor John Lithgow (2010).

The Academy will induct new members in a formal ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October. 

A picture may be downloaded here: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/77441741 Credit: Uwe Dettmar 

Further information: Professor Ivan Dikic, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry II and the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Phone: +49 69 6301-5964, dikic@biochem2.uni-frankfurt.de, http://www.biochem2.com

 

Apr 10 2019
15:12

Goethe University contributes to paradigm-shifting observations of the gargantuan black hole at the heart of distant galaxy Messier 87

Astronomers capture first image of a black hole

FRANKFURT. Researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) announced a breakthrough today in several coordinated international press conferences: they have successfully captured the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole. It is located at the centre of the neighbouring galaxy M87. The results are published in a series of papers in the current issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) operates a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes that are linked together. The Black Hole Cam (BHC) Team, led by astrophysicists from Goethe University in Frankfurt, the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn and the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, are part of this collaboration. 

“We are giving humanity its first view of a black hole — a one-way door out of our universe," said EHT project director Sheperd S. Doeleman of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. "This is a landmark in astronomy, an unprecedented scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers." 

Black holes are extraordinary cosmic objects with enormous masses but extremely compact sizes. The presence of these objects affects their environment in extreme ways, warping spacetime and super-heating any surrounding material so that it glows. The theory of general relativity predicts that the heated material will illuminate the extremely warped spacetime, making a dark shadow visible. 

"If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow — something predicted by Einstein's general relativity that we've never seen before," explained chair of the EHT Science Council Heino Falcke of Radboud University, the Netherlands. "This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87's black hole." The black hole in the centre of M87 has a mass of more than six billion solar masses. 

The EHT observations indeed reveal a ring-like structure with a dark central region — the black hole's shadow. The ring appears in multiple separate observations using different imaging methods that were analysed independently from each other. "Once we were sure we had imaged the shadow, we could compare our observations to extensive computer models that include the physics of warped space, superheated matter and strong magnetic fields. Many of the features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well," remarked Luciano Rezzolla, professor for theoretical astrophysics at Goethe University. "This makes us confident about the interpretation of our observations, including our estimation of the black hole's mass." 

The group headed by Luciano Rezzolla made fundamental contributions to the theoretical interpretation of the results throughout each stage of the observations: using supercomputers, they simulated how material revolves around the black hole in a ring-shaped disc (accretion disc) and gets pulled in, and how light rays are bent because of the extreme gravitation around the black hole. It was also important to rule out various alternatives to black holes that are also compatible with the theory of general relativity. “The confrontation of theory with observations is always a dramatic moment for a theoretical physicist. It was a relief and a source of pride to realize that the observations matched our predictions so well," said Luciano Rezzolla. 

The first direct image of a black hole required telescopes of unprecedented precision and sensitivity. The realization of this telescope – the Event Horizon Telescope – was a formidable challenge which required upgrading and connecting a worldwide network of eight pre-existing telescopes deployed at a variety of challenging high-altitude sites. These locations included volcanoes in Hawai`i and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica. 

The EHT observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) which synchronises telescope facilities around the world and exploits the rotation of our planet to form one huge, Earth-size telescope observing at a wavelength of 1.3mm. VLBI allows the EHT to achieve an angular resolution of 20 micro-arcseconds — enough to read a newspaper in New York from a sidewalk café in Berlin. 

“The 30-m IRAM telescope on Pico Valeta in the Spanish Sierra Nevada is the most sensitive single-dish telescope within the EHT network," explained Karl Schuster, director of IRAM and member of the EHT board. “Bringing together the best radio telescopes on four continents we can reach an unprecedented sensitivity and spatial resolution, allowing scientists to carry out measurements at the very limit of what is physically possible." The second IRAM telescope, NOEMA in the French Alps, joined the EHT network in September 2018. 

The construction of the EHT represents an effort that has spanned many years, and serves as an example of global teamwork by researchers from many countries. Thirteen partner institutions worked together to create the EHT. Key funding was provided by the EU's European Research Council (ERC), the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and funding agencies in East Asia. 

“After decades of research where we could postulate black holes only indirectly, albeit with great precision, it was not until LIGO in 2015 that we were able to make the impact of merging black holes on space-time 'audible,'" explained Michael Kramer, Director at MPIfR and co-PI of the ERC Black Hole Cam project. “Now we can finally 'see' them, and investigate the extreme warping of spacetime they are causing in a unique way." 

"These results mark an important milestone for our understanding of the fundamental processes that determine the formation and evolution of galaxies. It is remarkable that in this project we were able to take our astronomical observations and their theoretical interpretation to the success we hoped for even faster than expected. In the future, scientists far beyond our field will clearly remember a time before and after this discovery," predicted Anton Zensus, Director at the MPIfR and Chair of the EHT Collaboration Board.

Publications: https://iopscience.iop.org/journal/2041-8205/page/Focus_on_EHT 

The image of the black hole, and pictures of Luciano Rezzolla and his team can be downloaded at: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/77255057
Caption for black hole image: Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the centre of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

Film material on the black hole (Simulations and background on the research at Goethe University) can be found here: 

https://youtu.be/l6iuC1I3mHo: How we made the black hole visible. Short version https://youtu.be/vrHL61cHAnA: How we made the black hole visible. Long version with personal statements https://youtu.be/_AOtZxUsfAw: Simulations of the shadow of a black hole (English) https://youtu.be/i1VJw3aj664: Simulations of the shadow of a black hole (Spanish)

Further information: Prof Luciano Rezzolla, Principal Investigator of the European Black Hole Cam Experiment, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Faculty of Physics, Riedberg Campus, Phone: +49 69 798 47871:, rezzolla@th.physik.uni-frankfurt.de; https://astro.uni-frankfurt.de/rezzolla/ 

Please direct interview requests to Mrs. Steidl in Luciano Rezzolla's office per Email: steidl@ipt.uni-frankfurt.de 

Live-Streaming Links: EbS website: , European Commission's YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=Dr20f19czeE

 

Apr 8 2019
14:22

Researchers from Goethe University and TU Munich decode biosynthesis of aryl polyene pigments

Biosynthesis of widespread pigments from bacteria revealed 

FRANKFURT. Bacteria can protect themselves from the attack of free radicals using specific natural products in their membranes. The biosynthesis of one of the most common protective pigments that could also be of interest for the medical and cosmetic industries has now been uncovered by researchers from Goethe University and TU Munich. 

Aryl polyene are yellow pigments produced by bacteria living in widely varying environments such as soil, the human intestines or other ecological niches. Embedded in the membrane of the bacteria, they serve as protection against oxidative stress or reactive oxygen species. The latter can damage the cells once it enters the bacterial cell. 

Although it was previously known which proteins were responsible for the formation of aryl polyenes, it was unclear how they produced the yellow pigments. The research group Molecular Biotechnology led by Professor Helge Bode (Goethe University Frankfurt), working in collaboration with the research group led by Assistant Professor Nina Morgner (Faculty of Chemistry at Goethe University) and Professor Michael Groll (Technical University of Munich), was able to reconstitute the biosynthesis of aryl polyenes in the test tube and thus elucidate the function of individual biosynthesis steps. 

“Aryl polyenes' anti-oxidative properties are similar to those of carotenoids, but are produced completely differently," says Gina Grammbitter, who investigated this system as part of her doctoral work. “Its biosynthesis is very similar to the formation of fatty acids, but also exhibits unexpected differences," adds Nina Morgner. “Together with Michael Groll's group, we were able to identify unusual complexes of the proteins involved and determine their structure." 

As the researchers demonstrate in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, aryl polyenes are produced via a novel biosynthesis pathway and are presumably located directly in the membrane of the bacteria. However, aryl polyenes are only part of a much larger natural product: “What's still missing is the formation and structure of this overall structure," explains Gina Grammbitter, who is currently working on exactly this issue. 

Research in this field continues. The next step is to investigate the interaction of the individual enzymes and the role of aryl polyenes, e.g. in the microbiome of humans. Because of their anti-oxidation properties, aryl polyenes may also be of interest to the cosmetic industry. 

Publication: Grammbitter GLC, Schmalhofer M, Karimi K, Schöner TA, Tobias NJ, Morgner N, Groll M, Bode HB. An Uncommon Type II PKS Catalyzes Biosynthesis of Aryl Polyene Pigments. J Am Chem Soc. 2019 Mar 25. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b10776. 

An image may be downloaded here: http://uni-frankfurt.de/77157898
Caption: Biosynthesis of the yellow aryl polyene protective pigments from simple precursors that are very widespread in bacteria. 

Further Information: Professor Helge B. Bode, Molecular Biotechnology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 69 798-29557, H.Bode@bio.uni-frankfurt.de.