No. 25/December 6, 2007

MDC Scientists Reveal Role of Gene in Sensitivity to Thermal Pain

The skin is the largest human sensory organ. What is not fully understood is how the skin responds to stimuli, especially to pain. Research by Nevena Milenkovic, Christina Frahm, Professor Gary Lewin and Dr. Alistair Garratt of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, Germany, has now demonstrated that Stem Cell Factor (SCF) and its receptor, c-Kit, play a central role in tuning the responsiveness of sensory neurons to heat stimuli. “As yet, c-Kit is the first example of a single gene being required for normal noxious heat sensitivity of C-fibers,” according to the neurobiologists. Their paper has just been published online in Neuron*.

No. 24/November 12, 2007

Professor Thomas Tuschl Receives Max Delbrück Medal

Professor Thomas Tuschl from Rockefeller University in New York, USA, was honoured in Berlin, Germany, with the Max Delbrück Medal. The German chemist developed a technique which enables researchers to literally “turn off” specific genes. This technology is called RNA-Interference (RNAi) and is now used in research laboratories all over the world to silence genes in cell culture to elucidate their function. Researchers also hope to employ RNAi-technology to silence disease genes in order to treat eye diseases, neurological diseases, hereditary diseases, and cancer in the future. Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, held the laudatory address.

No. 23/October 15, 2007

Knocked out in Mice: Cause for Massive Cell Death after Spinal Cord Injury – Researchers Working on the Development of Drugs to Limit Neuronal Death

Neurons die en masse when the spinal cord is injured or when a person suffers a stroke. Researchers of the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, and of Aarhus University, Denmark, have unraveled the molecular mechanism which causes the death not only of damaged neurons, but also of healthy nerve cells.

No. 22/September 27, 2007

Friedrich Luft Received Novartis Award for his Research on Hypertension

Physician and hypertension researcher, Professor Friedrich C. Luft, from Berlin, Germany has received the Novartis Award for Hypertension Research from the American Heart Association in Tuscon, Arizona, USA. He was honored for his research on the genetic causes of hypertension, the effects of perturbed electrolyte homeostasis, and the mechanisms of resulting target-organ damage. The award, worth $20,000, is the most important prize in hypertension research given by the American Heart Association and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis each year.

No. 21/September 20, 2007

Genetic Cause Discovered for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Mutations in a gene researchers call TREX1 is one cause for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a severe and incurable autoimmune disease. This is the result of a new study headed by Professor Norbert Hübner from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Min Ae Lee-Kirsch from the Technical University Dresden, (both in Germany) in collaboration with scientists from Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The study has now been published in the latest issue of Nature Genetics (Vol. 39, No. 9, pp. 1065-1067, 2007).

No 20/September 14, 2007

Compounds Inhibit Tumor Cell Growth in the Cell Culture and in Zebrafish Drug Targets are Components of the Wnt Pathway

Twenty-five years ago, the first component was discovered of what was later found to be part of one of the most important signaling pathways for development and disease, the Wnt signaling pathway. Now, researchers are using the insights they have gained into this cell communication to interfere with this pathway to develop new therapies against cancer.

No. 19/September 12, 2007

Keeping the Right Balance - New Insights into the Control of Stem Cells

In recent years, researchers have gained ever more insight into the regulation of stem cells and their role in self-renewal and repair mechanisms. One important stem cell regulator discovered is now known as the Wnt signaling pathway.


Wnt Signaling in Development and Disease

Wednesday, September 12 – Saturday, September 15, 2007

Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C)

No. 17/August 15, 2007

Italian-German Research Team Discovers Cellular Marker for Multiple Sclerosis

In their search for the cellular and molecular causes of multiple sclerosis, an Italian-German research team has identified a subgroup of protective immune cells (suppressor cells) which are strikingly reduced in number in patients with this nervous system disorder.

No. 16/August 14, 2007

MDC Scientists Discover Novel Regulator for the Development of the Nervous System

Nerve cells must perform millions of neuronal processes and form connections between them during embryonic development to ensure that the nervous system will function properly. Dr. Marta Rosário and Prof. Walter Birchmeier from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Germany), a member of the Helmholtz-Association of National Research Centres, have discovered a novel regulator which is crucial for this process and which they named NOMA-GAP (Neurite-Outgrowth MultiAdaptor RhoGAP).

No. 15/July 2, 2007

Helmholtz Association Pledges Millions for MDC

Improvement of Doctoral Programs

The Helmholtz Association has pledged to fund a Helmholtz graduate school and a Helmholtz research school at the MDC with a sum of 5.4 million euros for the coming six years. The aim of these projects, which will be financed from the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association, Professor Jürgen Mlynek, is to provide PhD students with an improved and better-structured doctoral program. The Helmholtz Graduate School of Molecular Cell Biology at MDC will receive 3.6 million euros (600,000 euros per year); 1.8 million euros (300,000 euros per year) are earmarked for the Helmholtz International Research School in Molecular Neurobiology. The MDC is the only one of the 15 institutions of the Helmholtz Association to be awarded grants for two projects during this year’s round of applications.

No. 14/June 27, 2007

Kai Schmidt-Ott to Head Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at MDC

The physician and developmental biologist Dr. Kai Martin Schmidt-Ott, formerly of Columbia University in New York, will establish and head an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will fund the research group over a period of five years. Dr. Schmidt-Ott’s research focuses on the embryonic development of the kidney and its perturbation in congenital diseases.

No. 13/June 14, 2007

MDC Stem Cell Researcher Dr. Gerd Kempermann Appointed Professor in Dresden

Dr. Gerd Kempermann, head of the research group “Neuronal Stem Cells” at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has accepted an appointment as full professor at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) starting in June 2007. His research focuses on neuronal stem cells and neurogenesis in the adult brain. He is especially interested in determining to what extent physical and intellectual activity regulates adult neurogenesis and thus contributes to adaptation processes in the young and aging brain.

No. 12/June 1, 2007

Professor Oliver Smithies Honoured in Berlin

Dr. Oliver Smithies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, has received the Commemorative Medal of the E.K Frey - E.Werle Foundation in Berlin, Germany. Together with two other researchers, he developed the “knock-out” technology which allows for shutting down genes in animals to study their function. With this method, which is being used now in research laboratories all over the world, scientists are able to develop animal models of human disease.

No. 11/May 24, 2007

Immunization Against Type 1 Diabetes – Mice Successfully Treated

Researchers in France and Germany have successfully treated type 1 diabetic mice with a vaccination. The vaccine they designed in this model included structures that the immune system mistakenly attacks in type 1 diabetes.

No. 10/May 15, 2007

New Insights into the Disease Mechanism of Vasculitis

Potential Target for Specific Therapy

A potential therapeutic target for autoimmune vasculitis has been identified by researchers of the Franz Volhard Clinic for Cardiovascular Diseases (FVK) of the Charité – University Medicine Berlin/HELIOS-Klinikum and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. They discovered that a specific surface receptor (NB1) mediates the expression of a molecule (autoantigen) on the surface of certain white blood cells, where the immune system recognizes and binds it. This reaction starts the inflammation process. Thus, NB1 is a potential drug target for ANCA-associated vasculitis, as Dr. Sibylle von Vietinghoff (FVK), Professor Friedrich Luft (FVK, MDC) and Professor Ralph Kettritz (FVK) report in the American journal Blood (Vol. 109, No. 10, pp. 4487-4493, May 15, 2007)*.

No. 9/April 25, 2007

New Method Allows for Stem Cell Propagation and Neurogenesis in Cell Culture

Researchers are now able to study stem cells from the brains of adult mice and their neurogenesis in long-term cell cultures. Harish Babu an Dr. Gerd Kempermann (both from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch, the Volkswagenstiftung Research Group at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany) have developed a new method which allows them to generate exactly those neurons from stem cells in cell culture as those that would develop in the living brain.

No. 8/19. April 2007

Wound Healing – MDC Researchers Identify Key Function of a Molecule

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It protects against environmental influences and pathogens, regulates body temperature, and protects the body against dehydration. In humans, the skin renews itself completely approximately every month by constantly shedding the dead cells on the skin surface and replacing them with new cells which have moved up from the basal layer of the epidermis. When the skin is injured, this process is accelerated in order to facilitate rapid wound closure to keep germs from penetrating inside the body. Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have now been able to show that the signal molecule, c-Met, which regulates cell growth and cell migration during embryonic development, also plays a key role in wound healing in the skin. If c-Met is missing in the skin cells, no new tissue can form and close the wound. The paper of Jolanta Chmielowiec, PhD student of Professor Walter Birchmeier, and Professor Carmen Birchmeier has been published in the Journal of Cell Biology (Vol.177, Nr. 1, pp. 151 – 162, 2007)*.

No. 7/March 9, 2007

Fountain of Youth: Molecular Switch Holds Key to Reserve Supply of Muscle Stem Cells

After injury, even adult muscles can heal very well because they have a reserve supply of muscle stem cells, called satellite cells, which they can utilize for repair. Until now, it was unclear how this supply of satellite and muscle progenitor cells, out of which both muscle cells as well as satellite cells develop, keeps itself “fresh”. Developmental biologists Professor Carmen Birchmeier, Dr. Elena Vasyutina, and Diana Lenhard of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have now demonstrated that a molecular switch, abbreviated RBP-J, regulates this “fountain of youth”. If the switch is absent, the satellite cells generate muscle cells in an uncontrolled way, resulting in the depletion of the satellite cell reserves. As a consequence, too few muscles form during the developmental phase of a living organism and the fetus can no longer build up a reserve supply of satellite cells. The MDC scientists’ research report, which could be of significance for the future development of stem cell therapies, has just been published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)*.

No. 6/February 28, 2007

Professor Achim Leutz of MDC Receives German Cancer Award

Three scientists share this year’s prize

The 2007 German Cancer Prize for experimental research goes to Professor Achim Leutz, of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, for “excellent” work on the development of blood cells and leukemias. Virologist Professor Lutz Gissmann, of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, will be given the award in the category “translational research,” for work leading to the development of the first papilloma virus vaccine, which blocks cervical cancer. A third award in the area of clinical research goes to Professor Michael Weller of the University of Tübingen, who showed that malignant brain tumors deactivate the body’s immune system by releasing a molecule called TGF-beta. The awards will be presented in a ceremony on March 1 in Frankfurt (Main), Germany, at the congress of the Working Group on Experimental Cancer Research. The prize carries a total value of 22,500 euros. Leutz, who heads the Cell Differentiation and Tumorigenesis Program at the MDC, is the fifth scientist from Berlin-Buch to win the prestigious German Cancer Prize.

No. 5/February 15, 2007

Targeting Myocardial Disease

The Muscle Protein Titin Regulates the Contractile Properties of the Heart

Mutations of titin, the largest protein in humans, can lead to myopathies and heart disease. Titin is an important component of the smallest mechanical unit of the heart muscle, the sarcomere. There, titin functions as a molecular spring and ensures that the heart muscle efficiently fills with blood – an important prerequisite that sufficient blood is pumped through the body with every heartbeat, when sarcomeres contract.

No. 4/February 12, 2007

Tracing the Causes of Heart Failure

In most cases, heart failure is due to the impaired ability of the heart muscle to pump blood through the body. However, in some cases, the heart no longer functions normally because it is not filled properly. This process is largely determined by the elastic scaffold protein titin.

No. 3/February 9, 2007

Prof. Achim Leutz Appointed to Central Commission for Biological Safety

Cell biologist and cancer researcher Professor Achim Leutz of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch has been appointed to the Central Commission for Biological Safety (ZKBS). Germany’s Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer appointed the researcher, who is also member of the European Organisation for Molecular Biology (EMBO), to be a deputy member in the field of cell biology for a term of three years. As the ZKBS also announced, the minister appointed two other experts to the commission: Professor Regine Hakenbeck of the Technical University Kaiserslautern for the field of microbiology and Professor François Buscot of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) Leipzig for the field of ecology. With Professor Leutz and Professor Buscot, two centers of the Helmholtz Association are represented in the ZKBS at the same time.

No. 2/January 19, 2007

Cellular Waste Disposal – a Target for Drug Therapies

Nobel Laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover Delivers Key Note Lecture at New Year’s Reception of the Berlin-Buch Campus

A cell contains tens of thousands of proteins, the building materials and the machinery of life. Proteins that are defectively produced and misfolded and no longer function properly must be disposed to prevent damage. This is true also for “healthy” functional proteins that must be removed when they are no longer needed – when the processes they control must be stopped.

No. 1/January 15, 2007

MDC Researchers Discover New Function of Cardiac Sodium Pump

The heart can only beat if electrically charged particles (ions) are transported back and forth across the plasma membrane of the heart cells. The sodium-potassium pump conducts this transport activity by pumping potassium ions into the cell interior and allowing sodium ions to flow out of the cell. Indirectly, it also regulates the concentration of calcium ions, which in turn control heartbeat. Patients with cardiac insufficiency receive drugs that affect the sodium pump in order to stabilize their heartbeat.