Press releases – 2023

Whether it is new and groundbreaking research results, university topics or events – in our press releases you can find everything you need to know about the happenings at Goethe University. To subscribe, just send an email to ott@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de

Goethe University PR & Communication Department 

Theodor-W.-Adorno Platz 1
60323 Frankfurt 
presse@uni-frankfurt.de

 

Jan 24 2023
15:22

Shared award with Brenda Schulman from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried – Fundamental work on the cellular recycling system through ubiquitin – 500,000 Swiss francs in prize money 

Ivan Đikić from Goethe University receives Swiss Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Prof. Ivan Đikić, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry II at Goethe University, will be awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine for his contributions to research into the ubiquitin system, one of the cell's central regulatory systems. The award will be bestowed on Đikić and his cooperation partner Prof. Brenda Schulman from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, near Munich. This was announced today by the Swiss Louis-Jeantet Foundation. The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine is one of the most prestigious awards for biomedical research and is endowed with 500,000 Swiss francs (about 500,000 euros). 

FRANKFURT. The cells of our body need thousands of proteins for growth, metabolism and signal processing. These proteins are produced and degraded again in orchestrated processes. Certain enzymes, so-called E3 ligases, attach small protein chains consisting of ubiquitin units to defective, superfluous or harmful proteins, thereby signaling to the cell's "shredder", the proteasome, that the respective proteins should be broken down into their components again. Prof. Ivan Đikić has been researching this ubiquitin system for many years and developing methods to use it to combat diseases. 

Prof. Enrico Schleiff, President of Goethe University, congratulated the award winner: "With his pioneering work, Ivan Đikić has shown that ubiquitination not only controls the degradation and self-renewal processes in the cell, but that there are different types of ubiquitin chains that collectively intervene in the regulation of almost all cellular functions. He has thus radically expanded our understanding of the ubiquitin system and revealed its connection to diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders." 

Schleiff also highlighted the innovative application potential of Đikić's research work: "Ivan Đikić is a brilliant researcher. Among others, he heads the Cluster4Future PROXIDRUGS, which is breaking new ground in the development of medical agents based on the ubiquitin system. One possible application would be the targeted administration of cancer-promoting proteins to the cellular degradation system. His research opens the way to a completely new class of drug substances that can be used to address the numerous disease-relevant proteins that have so far been inaccessible by traditional small molecules. The development of such novel substance classes is also an important research topic in our EMTHERA cluster initiative, which we launched together with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and which is led by Ivan Đikić and last year's award winner Özlem Türeci." 

Đikić said: "I am so proud to be awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine together with my colleague and friend Brenda Schulman. I am indebted to all members of my laboratory, colleagues in Frankfurt, and all collaborators around the world, who have demonstrated that the culture of working together and sharing data is real joy and is also critical for promoting impactful scientific discoveries. Our research has helped position Frankfurt and Goethe University among the leading centers for biomedical research in Germany." 

Born in 1966, Ivan Đikić studied medicine at the University of Zagreb and received his PhD from New York University. He founded his first independent group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Uppsala before being appointed Professor of Biochemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt. Since 2009, Đikić has headed the Institute of Biochemistry II here as Director. From 2009 to 2013, he also acted as founding director of the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences. In 2018, Đikić was appointed Fellow of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt. He is spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research-funded Cluster4Future PROXIDRUGS, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)-funded Collaborative Research Centre 1177 on selective autophagy, as well as co-spokesperson of the cluster project ENABLE and designated spokesperson of the planned excellence initiative EMTHERA. In addition, he was recently able to acquire his third Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Đikić has received numerous awards for his biomedical research, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2013. He is an elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and was also inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

The Swiss Louis-Jeantet Foundation has been awarding the Louis-Jeantet Prize annually since 1986 to scientists who have distinguished themselves in the field of biomedical research in one of the member states of the Council of Europe. The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine is endowed with 500,000 Swiss francs, of which 450,000 are earmarked for the continuation of the laureates' research and 50,000 for their personal use. 

The award ceremony will take place on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland. Link: https://www.jeantet.ch/en/ 

Images for download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/123390769 

Caption: Prof. Ivan Đikić. Photo: Uwe Dettmar for Goethe University 

Further information
Prof. Ivan Ðikić
Institute of Biochemistry II, Frankfurt University Hospital and Goethe University Frankfurt
as well as Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
Tel: +49 (0) 69 6301-5964
dikic@biochem2.uni-frankfurt.de
Twitter: @iDikic2


Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Jan 24 2023
10:10

Biochemist and physician at the Berlin Institute of Health is conducting research into how our blood forms

Pioneering method for stem cell diagnostics: Leif S. Ludwig receives Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Early Career Award

Biochemist and physician Dr Leif S. Ludwig (40) from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) and the Max Delbrück Center will receive the 2023 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers, as the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation announced today. Building on the latest technologies for the gene sequencing of single cells, prize winner Ludwig has developed a method that can analyse the lifelong regeneration of cells in human blood in a way that is up to 1,000 times quicker, more reliable and less expensive than has previously been possible. In so doing, he is enabling medicine to determine for the first time and with reasonable effort the activity of single blood stem cells in humans

FRANKFURT. Our blood renews itself constantly. Each second, millions of new cells are added to our bloodstream which replace dying blood cells. They originate from haematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells in the bone marrow and then gradually mature over several stages. A distinction is traditionally made between four major developmental trajectories: the first trajectory produces the red blood cells that transport oxygen, the second supplies the thrombocytes, or platelets, that stop bleeding and allow wounds to heal. In the third trajectory, the white blood cells develop, which give us our innate immune defence, such as the granulocytes, for example, and in the fourth, the B and T cells develop, which form the basis for our acquired immune defence in the event of infection. However, as research progressed, the more and more difficult it became to distinguish these trajectories from each other. 

Haematopoietic stem cells were discovered in 1961. This discovery enabled the introduction in the 1970s of bone marrow transplants to treat certain types of leukaemia. Observing how transplanted cells behave in the recipient's organism led to many new insights into haematopoiesis. However, the fact that these insights were obtained under artificial conditions limited their informational value. After all, the transplanted stem cells had been taken beforehand from their natural context. With the help of genetic markers, however, since the 1980s it has been possible to study the development of blood cells in their natural context. This method, called lineage tracing, was applied with ever greater precision over the following decades – but only in animal experiments because, as it goes without saying, inserting artificial genetic markers into humans is out of the question. 

In human blood, lineage tracing is only possible by observing natural DNA mutations that occur after cell division in one daughter cell but not in the other, and which thus only propagate in certain cell families (clones). In the 2010s, researchers attempted to trace such mutations in the entire genome of blood cells. However, in view of the over three billion “letters" (base pairs) in our genome and despite state-of-the-art methods, this is very expensive and prone to error. That is why Leif Ludwig concentrated on evidencing natural mutations in the mitochondria of blood cells. These cellular powerhouses have their own, much smaller genome of around 16,600 base pairs. Leif Ludwig combined their analysis with the latest single-cell sequencing technologies (single-cell omics), which enabled him to make statements about the actual health status of the cells under examination at the same time. He and his team have meanwhile refined their method in such a way that they can analyse tens of thousands of cells in bone marrow and blood samples from a patient. 

It has been presumed for a long time that haematopoietic stem cells are not a uniform source but rather form a heterogeneous pool, from which various developmental trajectories develop and branch out in many directions during the continuous formation of new blood. For example, one stem cell might produce only thrombocytes, or platelets, another all kinds of blood cells. The relationships in our blood are therefore highly unclear. Leif Ludwig's analytical method now makes it possible to disentangle them more easily in order to identify, for example, at which branch point a leukaemia cell develops or a degenerative change occurs. It opens up the possibility for human medicine to conduct such studies in the future for the first time in everyday clinical practice and to derive therapeutic interventions from them. 

From 2003 onwards, Dr. Leif Si-Hun Ludwig first studied biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin, then human medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. As a doctoral candidate in biochemistry, he conducted research at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research from 2011 to 2015 and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard from 2016 to 2020, both in Cambridge/USA. He has led an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité and the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (Max Delbrück Center) since November 2020. 

The prize will be awarded – together with the main prize for 2023 – by the Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation on 14 March 2023 at 5.00 p.m. in Frankfurt's Paulskirche. 

Pictures of the prize winner and detailed background information – “What the mitochondrion tells us" – can be downloaded from: www.paul-ehrlich-stiftung.de 

Further information
Press Office
Paul Ehrlich Foundation
Joachim Pietzsch
Tel.: +49 (0)69 36007188
Email: j.pietzsch@wissenswort.com
www.paul-ehrlich-stiftung.de 

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Early Career Award, first awarded in 2006, is presented once a year by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation to a young scientist working in Germany for outstanding achievements in biomedical research. The prize money of €60,000 must be used for research-related purposes. University professors and senior scientists at German research institutions are eligible to nominate candidates. The award winners are selected by the Foundation Council on the recommendation of an eight-member selection committee.


Editors: Joachim Pietzsch, Press Department Paul Ehrlich Foundation / Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Tel: +49 (0)69 798-12498, Fax +49 (0)69 798-763-12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Jan 16 2023
17:00

International team of scientists led by researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt and the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt reveals dietary differences between Homo erectus and great apes

Early humans: Annual cycles in tooth enamel provide insights into life histories

An interdisciplinary team of scientists, led by Goethe University Frankfurt and the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, has discovered – by analysing their teeth – what our ancestors of the species Homo erectus ate hundreds of thousands of years ago on the island of Java in Southeast Asia: over the course of a year, these early humans switched from a plant-based diet to a mixed one, but were far less dependent on seasonal food supply than, for example, orangutans, which also inhabited the island. 

FRANKFURT. If you take a magnifying glass and a torch and look at your teeth very carefully in the mirror, in places you can spot a pattern of fine, parallel lines running across your teeth. These correspond to the striae of Retzius that mark the growth of our tooth enamel. Enamel starts forming in the womb and continues to mineralise until adolescence, when the last milk teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent ones. Like in all land-dwelling vertebrates, tooth enamel mineralises gradually in microscopically thin layers in humans too, represented by the striae of Retzius. The speed with which a human develops can be read from these Retzius lines. Physiological changes, such as birth, weaning or illness, for example, leave distinctive traces. The striae of Retzius also form the chronological framework for the chemical composition of tooth enamel, which in turn reflects changes in the diet of that individual. 

By studying their teeth, an international team of scientists from Goethe University Frankfurt led by Professor Wolfgang Müller and his MSc student Jülide Kubat, now a doctoral candidate at Université Paris Cité, compared the dietary habits of an ancestor of modern humans – Homo erectus, “the upright man" – with those of contemporaneous orangutans and other animals. These all lived during the Pleistocene Epoch 1.4 million to 700,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Java, which at that time was characterised by monsoonal rainforests as well as open treescapes and grassy savannahs. 

In order to analyse the tooth enamel, the researchers embedded the teeth in resin and then cut them into wafer-thin slices some 150 micrometres thick. These extremely precious tooth samples are part of the Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald Collection at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, a permanent loan from the Werner Reimers Foundation. In turn, they used a special laser to ablate material from the thin slices, which was chemically analysed with a mass spectrometer for, amongst other elements, strontium and calcium, which are found in both bones and teeth (Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICPMS)). The ratio of strontium to calcium (Sr/Ca) depends on the diet, explains Wolfgang Müller: “Strontium is gradually excreted by the body – as an impurity of the vital calcium, so to speak. In the food chain, this leads to a continuous decrease in the strontium-calcium (Sr/Ca) ratio from herbivores to omnivores to carnivores." 

The research team was able to corroborate this by comparing various Pleistocene animal teeth from Java: feline predators exhibited a low strontium-calcium ratio, predecessors of today's rhinoceros, deer and hippopotamus displayed high strontium-calcium ratios and Pleistocene pigs, as omnivores, were somewhere in the middle. The teeth of the hominids orangutan and Homo erectus were really exciting because here the researchers discovered annual cycles during which the dietary composition of great apes and humans changed: both showed variations during the years, but the regular Sr/Ca peaks were much more pronounced for the orangutan than for Homo erectus. Jülide Kubat, first author of the publication, explains: “These peaks indicate an abundant supply of plant food in the wet season, during which the rainforest, for example, produced many types of fruit. During the dry season, orangutans switched to other food sources, which may have included insects or eggs. By contrast, Homo erectus, as an omnivore and occasional carnivore, was less dependent on seasonal food supply – as indicated by the less pronounced peaks and lower Sr/Ca values." 

Overall, says Müller, their research shows that high spatial-resolution laser analysis of trace elements, together with tooth enamel chronology, can provide remarkably detailed temporal insights into the life history of our ancestors: “Suddenly, you feel very close to these early humans who lived such a long time before us. You can sense what it might have meant to them when the season changed and how they interacted with their world. That's absolutely fascinating." 

Publication:
Jülide Kubat, Alessia Nava, Luca Bondioli, M. Christopher Dean, Clément Zanolli, Nicolas Bourgon, Anne-Marie Bacon, Fabrice Demeter, Beatrice Peripoli, Richard Albert, Tina Lüdecke, Christine Hertler, Patrick Mahoney, Ottmar Kullmer, Friedemann Schrenk, Wolfgang Müller: Dietary strategies of Pleistocene Pongo sp. and Homo erectus on Java (Indonesia). Nature Ecology and Evolution (2023) DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01947-0 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-022-01947-0 

The researchers involved are working at the following institutes: 

Denmark
Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark 

Germany
Institute of Geosciences, Goethe University Frankfurt
Frankfurt Isotope and Element Research Centre (FIERCE), Goethe University Frankfurt
Department of Paleobiology and Environment, Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Goethe University Frankfurt
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Emmy Noether Group for Hominin Meat Consumption, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz
ROCEEH Research Centre, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities 

France
Université Paris Cité, CNRS
Université de Bordeaux, CNRS, Pessac
Eco-anthropologie (EA), Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Université de Paris, Musée de l'Homme

Great Britain
Skeletal Biology Research Centre, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury
Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London 

Italy
Bioarchaeology Service, Museum of Civilizations, Rome
Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Padova 

Background information:
What milk teeth reveal: Neanderthal mothers weaned their children after five to six months (2020) https://aktuelles.uni-frankfurt.de/englisch/just-like-us-neanderthal-children-grew-and-were-weaned-similar-to-us/ 
Teeth of our ancestors: Discovery of a lower jaw in Malawi and what happened next (Forschung Frankfurt 1/2022) https://www.goethe-university-frankfurt.de/129268858.pdf 

Picture download:
https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/130763620 

Captions:
1_Homo_tooth_blocks
Homo erectus tooth embedded in epoxy resin after cutting. Credit: Alessia Nava/ Luca Bondioli 

2_Homo_tooth_thin slice
Polished thin section of a Homo erectus tooth before chemical analysis by laser ablation plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS). Credit: Alessia Nava/ Luca Bondioli 

3_Pongo_tooth_composit
Micrograph of an orangutan tooth thin section, showcasing the internal enamel growth structure; in the right image, the different laser ablation paths are highlighted in pink, whereas selected Retzius lines are shown in green. Credit: Alessia Nava/ Luca Bondioli 

4_Kubat_Julide_Lab
Jülide Kubat selecting ablation tracks (blau) at the computer that controls the laser ablation plasma mass spectrometers (LA-ICPMS). Credit: Wolfgang Müller 

5_Kubat_Julide_Muller_Wolfgang_LA_ICPMS
Jülide Kubat and Wolfgang Müller load the LA-ICPMS with a thin section of tooth for analysis. Credit: Jülide Kubat

Further information
Professor Wolfgang Müller
Institute of Geosciences /
Frankfurt Isotope and Element Research Centre (FIERCE)
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel. +49 (0)69 798 40291
w.muller@em.uni-frankfurt.de
http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/49540288/Homepage-Mueller 

Jülide Kubat
Faculté de Chirurgie Dentaire
Université Paris Cité
julide.kubat@parisdescartes.fr
Twitter: @julide_kubat_


Editor: Dr Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de.

 

Jan 9 2023
10:00

Particle analyses and laboratory experiments reveal how ultrafine particles form – Study by Goethe University Frankfurt in collaboration with the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology

Jet engine lubrication oils are a major source of ultrafine particles

Measurements conducted by the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG) in recent years have shown that Frankfurt International Airport is a major source of ultrafine particles and that these can disperse over long distances across the city. In collaboration with experts at the HLNUG, researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have now discovered that the ultrafine particles partly consist of synthetic jet oils. The research team has deduced that emissions from lubrication oils must be lowered in addition to those from kerosene in order to reduce the concentration of ultrafine particles and thus improve air quality. 

FRANKFURT. Ultrafine particles form during combustion processes, for example when wood or biomass is burned, as well as in power and industrial plants. Alongside road traffic, large airports are a major source of these ultrafine particles, which are less than 100 millionths of a millimetre (100 nanometres) in size. Because they are so small, they can penetrate deep into the lower respiratory tract, overcome the air-blood barrier and, depending on their composition, cause inflammatory reactions in the tissue, for example. What's more, ultrafine particles are suspected of being capable of triggering cardiovascular diseases. 

Since several years, the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG) has been measuring the number and size of ultrafine particles at various air monitoring stations in the vicinity of Frankfurt International Airport, for example in the Frankfurt suburb of Schwanheim and in Raunheim. Last year, scientists led by Professor Alexander Vogel at Goethe University Frankfurt analysed the chemical composition of the ultrafine particles and came across a group of organic compounds which, according to their chemical fingerprints, originated from aircraft lubrication oils. 

The research team has now corroborated this finding by means of further chemical measurements of the ultrafine particles: the particles originated to a significant degree from synthetic jet oils and were particularly prevalent in the smallest particle classes, i.e. particles 10 to 18 nanometres in size. Such lubrication oils can enter the exhaust plume of an aircraft's engines, for example through vents where nanometre-sized oil droplets and gaseous oil vapours are not fully retained. 

In laboratory experiments, the researchers also succeeded in reproducing the formation of ultrafine particles from lubrication oils. To this end, a common engine lubrication oil was first evaporated at around 300 °C in a hot gas stream, which simulated the exhaust plume of an aircraft engine, and subsequently cooled down. The number-size distribution of the freshly formed particles was then measured. 

Alexander Vogel, Professor for Atmospheric Environmental Analytics at the Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences of Goethe University Frankfurt, explains: “When the oil vapour cools down, the gaseous synthetic esters are supersaturated and form the nuclei for new particles that can then grow fast to around 10 nanometres in size. These particles, as our experiments indicate, constitute a large fraction of the ultrafine particles produced by aircraft engines. The previous assumption that ultrafine particles originate primarily from sulphur and aromatic compounds in kerosene is evidently incomplete. According to our findings, lowering lubrication oil emissions from jet engines holds significant potential for reducing ultrafine particles." 

The experiments show that the formation of ultrafine particles in jet engines is not confined to the combustion of kerosene alone. Potential mitigation measures should take this into consideration. This means that using low-sulphur kerosene or switching to sustainable aviation fuel cannot eliminate all the pollution caused by ultrafine particles. 

A comprehensive scientific study by the Federal State of Hesse, which will start in 2023, will examine pollution from ultrafine particles and their impact on health. In this context, the results from the current study can help to identify airport-specific particles and derive possible mitigation measures. 

Publication:
Florian Ungeheuer, Lucía Caudillo, Florian Ditas, Mario Simon, Dominik van Pinxteren, Dogushan Kilic, Diana Rose, Stefan Jacobi, Andreas Kürten, Joachim Curtius, Alexander L. Vogel: Nucleation of jet engine oil vapours is a large source of aviation-related ultrafine particles. Communications Earth & Environment (2022)
https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-022-00653-w 

Picture download:
https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/130014225 

Caption: Lubrication oil in the hot exhaust plume of an aircraft engine can form ultrafine particles as soon as the plume cools down. This has now been corroborated in a study by Goethe University Frankfurt and the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology. 

Photo: Alexander Vogel, Goethe University Frankfurt 

Further information:
Professor Alexander L. Vogel
Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel. +49 (0)69 798-40225
vogel@iau.uni-frankfurt.de
www.iau.uni-frankfurt.de
Twitter: @al_vogel, @HLNUG_Hessen


Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Jan 6 2023
10:02

Cell culture experiments by Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Kent corroborate the effectiveness of tecovirimat, cidofovir and brincidofovir – the Frankfurt research group is funded by the Frankfurt Foundation for Children with Cancer

Monkeypox viruses remain sensitive to the available drugs

The three antiviral drugs commonly used to treat mpox viruses (monkeypox viruses) are also effective against the viruses from the current outbreak. This has been shown in cell culture experiments by scientists at Goethe University Frankfurt/University Hospital Frankfurt and the University of Kent in Canterbury, Great Britain. 

FRANKFURT/CANTERBURY. The mpox virus is closely related to the smallpox virus (variola virus), which caused large, deadly outbreaks before it was eradicated by vaccination at the end of the 1970s. While the smallpox virus led to very severe disease progression with a death rate of about 30 percent, mpox is milder. Nevertheless, the mortality rate is still about three percent. Particularly at risk of a severe course of the disease are people with a weakened immune system, elderly persons, pregnant women, newborn babies and young children. Until recently, mpox outbreaks only occurred in certain parts of Africa when humans became infected through contact with wild animals, typically rodents such as the Gambian pouched rat and the rope squirrel. 

However, in May 2022 a first large mpox outbreak outside Africa was detected; the virus spread solely through human-to-human transmission. This ongoing outbreak has so far reached more than 100 countries and been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern". 

About 10% of mpox patients require hospital treatment. Moreover, the current mpox outbreak differs from previous ones in terms of both disease transmission and symptoms. These differences raised concerns that the currently circulating mpox virus might have changed in such a way that it would no longer respond to the antiviral drugs available. 

Against this backdrop, an international research team led by Professor Jindrich Cinatl from the Institute of Medical Virology, Goethe University Frankfurt/University Hospital Frankfurt, and Professor Martin Michaelis from the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent have succeeded in isolating and cultivating viruses in cell culture from 12 patients from the current mpox outbreak. This has enabled them to test these mpox virus isolates in cultures of skin cells, which has been naturally infected by the mpox virus, for their sensitivity to three drugs presently available to treat the disease: tecovirimat, cidofovir and brincidofovir. 

The results showed that all 12 isolates continued to respond to treatment with clinically relevant concentrations of these commonly used drugs. 

Professor Jindrich Cinatl said: “We were really concerned that the virus could have changed and become resistant to the available therapies. It is good to see that this is not the case." 

Professor Martin Michaelis added: “These findings are very reassuring and give good cause to believe that the antiviral drugs already available will also be effective against the mpox virus in the current outbreak." 

The Frankfurt research group “Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Paediatric Tumour and Virus Research", led by Professor Jindrich Cinatl, is funded by the Frankfurt Foundation for Children with Cancer and hosted at the foundation's Dr. Petra Joh Research House. 

Publication: Denisa Bojkova, Marco Bechtel, Tamara Rothenburger, Katja Steinhorst, Nadja Zöller, Stefan Kippenberger, Julia Schneider, Victor M. Corman, Hannah Uri, Mark N. Wass, Gaby Knecht, Pavel Khaykin, Timo Wolf, Sandra Ciesek, Holger F. Rabenau, Martin Michaelis, Jindrich Cinatl jr. Drug sensitivity of currently circulating monkeypox viruses. New England Journal of Medicine (2022)
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2212136

Further information
Professor Jindrich
Cinatl Institute of Medical Virology
University Hospital Frankfurt/Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel.: +49 (0)69 6301-6409
cinatl@em.uni-frankfurt.de 

Professor Martin Michaelis
School of Biosciences
University of Kent
Tel.: +44 (0)1227 82-7804
Mobile: +44 (0)7561 333 094
m.michaelis@kent.ac.uk
Twitter:@MartMichaelis


Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de