No. 40/December 15, 2006

MDC Researchers: A Protein Essential for Touch Sensation - First Evidence for a Touch Receptor Gene in Mammals

The skin is the largest sensory organ in humans. The sensory innervation of the skin allows us to perceive touch and pain. Now, Christiane Wetzel, a researcher in the laboratory of Professor Gary Lewin at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, and her colleagues have deciphered the function of a molecule necessary for the conversion of mechanical stimuli into neural impulses. They have demonstrated that this molecule, a protein called SLP3, is essential for the detection and discrimination of fine tactile stimuli. This study provides the first evidence for a touch receptor gene in mammals and shows that molecules may in the future prove to be important therapeutic targets for the control of chronic pain. The findings of Christiane Wetzel and Professor Lewin were published in Nature online (DOI: 10.1038/nature05394).

No. 39/December 7, 2006

Wicked Helpers - Cells of the Immune System Foster Growth of Glioblastoma

The immune system not only recognizes and attacks exogenous organisms like bacteria and viruses but also prevents the body from risks arising from aberrations of its own cells like tumor growth. Research from recent years has shown that brain tumors such as glioblastoma, an especially aggressive tumor, can manipulate immune cells such as macrophages to help foster its own growth instead of destroying it.

No. 38/December 7, 2006

Making Glioblastomas Starve – first Clinical Trials in the USA and Germany

Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain tumor. Due to the fact that in humans it is well-supplied with blood, this tumor grows very fast and affected individuals die within a few months of diagnosis. In several clinical trials in the USA and Germany, clinical researchers are using different approaches to prevent the creation of new blood vessels initiated by the tumor itself in an attempt to literally “starve” the tumor.

No. 37/December 7, 2006

Brain Tumors Paralyze the Immune System – First Preclinical Trails with RNA-Interference to lift blockage

Gliomas are extremely malignant and fast growing tumors. Not only do they secrete molecules to secure their blood supply by generating new blood vessels, they are also able to secrete messenger molecules to protect themselves against attacks by the immune system.

No. 36/December 7, 2006

Brain Tumor 2006 Meeting brings together Experts from Basic Research and Clinic – Unique in Europe

Brain tumors, new concepts of tumor development, and experimental strategies for new therapies are the focus of the two-day conference “Brain Tumor 2006” jointly arranged by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch and the Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch, Germany. Experts for Glioblastoma from Germany and abroad participate in this conference, which begins on December 7, 2006.

No. 35/December 1, 2006

Mutation Causes Heart Muscle Disorder

Researchers in Berlin und Boston Detect Genetic Defect

A mutation in a gene responsible for the adhesion of adjacent cells of the heart is the cause of a potentially lethal heart muscle disorder. The evidence has been provided by a team of researchers including Dr. Arnd Heuser of the Max Delbrück Center of Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, Dr. Eva R. Plovie of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, USA, and Professor Ludwig Thierfelder (MDC and Helios Klinikum Berlin/Charité) and Dr. Brenda Gerull (MDC).

No. 34/December 1, 2006

Professor Rudolf Jaenisch Receives Max Delbrück Medal

Stem cell researcher Professor Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, USA, has been awarded the Max Delbrück Medal for his research on epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation. These play a vital role in development and can lead to disease if dysfunctional. The study of these mechanisms is especially significant with respect to embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. In his award lecture “Nuclear Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cells and Cell Therapy: Promise, Problems, Reality” held on December 1, 2006 in Berlin-Buch, Professor Jaenisch referred to the recommendations called for by the German Research Foundation (DFG) two weeks previously, which included revoking the cutoff date for stem cell lines used in research. He described the recommendations as very reasonable and said that, as a researcher, one would wish that politicians would read them and try to understand the issues.

No. 33/November 15, 2006

New Insights on Metastasis Formation in Colon Cancer

Potential New Approach for Diagnosis and Treatment

The prognosis for colon cancer depends on whether the tumor develops metastases. New insights on metastasis formation in colon cancer gained by researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, the Robert Rössle Cancer Clinic in Berlin-Buch (both in Germany), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in Frederick, Maryland (USA) will open up an important new approach for colon cancer diagnosis and treatment.

No. 32/October 29, 2006

New Approach Allows for Insights into Evolution of Human Gene Regulation

Finding Genomic Elements involved in Human Disease

With their new approach, the bioformatics expert and systems biologist Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Kevin Chen from the Center for Comparative Functional Genomics, New York University, New York (USA) are now able to look more systematically for structures in the human genome which are likely to be deleterious and are the causes of human disease.

No. 31/October 9, 2006

Risk Research in Biomedicine – First International Workshop of the New Jülich-Berlin Research Project

Does mobile phone use cause cancer or not? Science has not yet been able to provide a conclusive answer. How does society deal with such uncertainties? Can research approaches used in molecular medicine fill the knowledge gaps and mitigate misgivings? A workshop to explore aspects of assessing the impacts of technology will begin on Thursday, October 12, 2006 in the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. It is the first workshop of the international and interdisciplinary research project IMBA, which was launched this past summer.

No 30/September 22, 2006

Researchers Discover new Key Function of an Enzyme in the Nervous System – Impact on Drug Development against Alzheimer`s Disease

Ever since scientists first elucidated the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathology and loss of nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease, drug companies have been working to develop drugs which will inhibit the outbreak of this severe form of dementia. Now researchers in Munich and Berlin (Germany) have discovered that an enyzme which has a central causal role in Alzheimer’s disease happens also to have a key function in the normal development of the nervous system. This enzyme, beta-secretase or BACE1, ensures that nerve fibers (axons) are adequately isolated with sheaths of myelin, enabling rapid conduction of electrical impulses, as well as preventing short-circuits, akin to plastic insulation on electrical wires. The discovery of the new key function of BACE1 by Dr. Michael Willem (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, LMU), Dr. Alistair Garratt, Professor Carmen Birchmeier (both at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), Professor Christian Haass (LMU) will have an impact on the development of Alzheimer’s drugs. Using genetically modified mice, researchers had been previously able to show that Alzheimer’s comes to a halt when the gene encoding BACE1 is inactivated. However, the researchers in Germany have now discovered that these mutant mice lack fully developed myelin sheaths, a defect which can result in nerve damage (neuropathies). Professor Christian Haass points out: “These findings allow us for the first time to also look very closely at the side effects of Alzheimer`s inhibitors.” Their findings in cooperation with scientists from the US and Belgium have now been published in Science Express, the online issue of the journal Science.

No. 29/September 15, 2006

Helmholtz Humboldt Recipient Henk Granzier Begins Research at MDC

The biologist, muscle researcher, and Helmholtz Humboldt Research Award recipient Henk Granzier, professor at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, USA, began his research sojourn at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in the middle of September 2006. In cooperation with Professor Michael Gotthardt (MDC) and the University of Mannheim, the Dutch scientist aims to study the biomechanical principles of heart diseases. Professor Granzier is the second Helmholtz Humboldt Research Award winner to choose MDC as the location to conduct his research. The first award recipient to do so was Professor Sergei Nedospasov of the Russian Academy of Sciences /Engelhardt Institute for Molecular Biology in Moscow.

No. 28/September 9, 2006

New Insights into the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease – Possible Starting Points for Developing Causative Therapies

Scientists are gaining ever more insight into the causative mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, they can identify possible attack points for a targeted, causative treatment of this severe brain disorder which affects millions of people worldwide, as reported at the international conference “Neurodegenerative Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms in a Functional Genomics Framework” in the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C) in Berlin-Buch (Germany). Alzheimer’s, like Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, belongs to the group of neurodegenerative diseases caused by misfolded proteins.

No 27/September 8, 2006

Molecular Chaperones Protect Cells – New Family Discovered

Falsely folded proteins and their aggregations in neurons are considered to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases, among them Chorea Huntington. Dr. Ulrich Hartl from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich has identified a new family of molecular chaperones that prevent proteins from “misbehaving” and ensure that they fold properly. This he reported at the International Conference “Neurodegenerative Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms in a Functional Genomics Framework” in the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C) in Berlin, Germany.

No. 26/September 8, 2006

Green Tea Slows Down Plaque Formation in Huntington’s Disease

First Results in Model Organisms

Green tea can apparently inhibit the formation of the lethal protein aggregates that are a characteristic feature of Huntington’s disease (HD). This finding was reported by Dagmar E. Ehrnhoefer, a member of the research group of Dr. Erich Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin Buch, Germany, at the international conference “Neurodegenerative Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms in a Functional Genomics Framework” in Berlin.

No 25/September 7, 2006

Protection for Nerve Cells - Eating up Defective proteins

Nerve cells in the Central Nervous System can defend against and recover from damage by proteinlike clusters which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington`s Chorea. The neurons are able to “eat up” and “digest” defective proteins by specialized processes within each cell.

No 24/September 7, 2006

Rescue of Nerve Cells in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Dr. Robert Korneluk from the University of Ottawa, Canada, and his team have been able to show that the inhibition of an intricate control system to balance cell proliferation and cell death, called apoptosis or programmed cell death, can rescue the function of neurons in the central nervous system.

No 23/September 7, 2006

Canadian Researchers Found Cure in Mice for Chorea Huntington

For the first time researchers have been able to cure Huntington Disease (HD) in a mouse.  Dr. Michael Hayden of the Child and Family Research Institute’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT), Vancouver, Canada, and his colleagues have discovered that by preventing the cleavage of the mutant huntingtin protein responsible for Huntington disease in a mouse model, the degenerative symptoms underlying the illness do not appear and the mouse displays normal brain function. He reported about these findings at the International Conference on Neurodegenerative Diseases International Conference on “Neurodegenerative Diseases: Molecular Mechanism in a Functional Genomics Framework” in the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C) in Berlin, Germany. They have also been published in the journal Cell (June 16, 2006, Vol. 125, 6, 1179-91).

No 22/September 6, 2006

Neurodegenerative Diseases – a Scientific, Medical, Health Care, and Political Challenge - First International Conference with Clinicians and Genome Researchers in Berlin

Two hundred (200) clinicians and genome researchers from Europe, Japan, Canada, and the USA have gathered at an international conference on neurodegenerative diseases at the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C) in Berlin Buch, Germany, to discuss the latest insights gained with the help of gene and protein research. The four-day meeting on “Neurodegenerative Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms in a Functional Genomics Framework” began on September 6, 2006 with an evening session in the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

No. 21/September 4, 2006

MDC Celebrates Centennial of Max Delbrück

With a festive event, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Germany), which was founded in 1992, celebrated the hundredth birthday of Max Delbrück, for whom the Center was named.

No 19/July 10, 2006

Professor Sergei Nedospasov at the MDC and the Deutsche Rheuma-Forschungszentrum in Berlin – Receives Helmholtz-Humboldt-Award

The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and its role in inflammation and cancer is the focus of the research of the Russian immunologist Professor Sergei Nedospasov and his collaboration with the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Deutsche Rheuma-Forschungszentrum Berlin. This collaboration with two German research institutions has been made possible through the Helmholtz-Humboldt Award, which was presented to Professor Nedospasov on July 11, 2006 in Berlin. The Prize is given by the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres, of which the MDC is a member, and the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. Professor Nedospasov heads a research group  at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and is Professor at the A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology at Moscow State University.

No. 17/July 5, 2006

Helmholtz University Young Investigators Group at the MDC for Brain Research Grant of 1.25 Million Euros for a Five-Year Period

The brain researcher Dr. Jochen Meier of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, has been selected to head a Helmholtz University Young Investigators Group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch beginning in July 2006. For the next five years, he will receive a total of 1.25 million euros for his research group “RNA Editing and Hyperexcitability Disorders”. Half of the grant will come from the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association. The MDC, a member of this research organization, will fund the second half of the grant. Dr. Meier is studying information processing in the brain, focusing particularly on RNA editing associated with diseases in which the central nervous system is hyperexcited, e.g. in case of epilepsy and muscle cramps. For 2006, the Helmholtz Association has established a total of 17 new Young Investigator Groups, 15 of which are in conjunction with a university.

No 16/July 5, 2006

Immunological Approaches to Cancer Treatment – New Transregional Collaborative Research Center in Berlin and Munich

A new transregional research collaboration to explore new approaches to cancer treatment with the aid of the immune system was now established in Berlin and Munich. The project “Principles and Applications of Adoptive T Cell Therapy” is a long-term multicenter research undertaking involving the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Free University Berlin und Humboldt University), the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, the GSF – National Research Center for Environment and Health in Munich as well as the Technical University and the Ludwig Maximilian University (both Munich) and the German Rheuma Research Center, Berlin. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is allocating six million euros to this Transregional Collaborative Research Center project (Transregio or SFB/TR for short), initially for the next four years.

No. 15/June 30, 2006

Medical Genomics Laboratory Officially Opened in the Presence of Berlin’s Governing Mayor Wowereit

In the presence of the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, the Laboratory for Medical Genome Research was officially opened on Friday, June 30, 2006 on the Campus Berlin-Buch. Germany’s Research Minister, Dr. Annette Schavan, had to cancel her visit due to a debate in the Bundestag, the German Parliament. The building was erected as a joint undertaking by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP). In doing so, the two institutions have created the prerequisite for bringing together different approaches in genome research, i.e. the systematic search for disease-related genes and the study of the function of genes and their products, the proteins. This research is crucial for the development of new treatment concepts. The building, which was designed by the Berlin architect Volker Staab and constructed at a cost of about 19 million euros, was financed with 56 per cent (10.6 million euros) of funds coming from the European Funds for Regional Development (EFRD). The remaining circa 8.4 million euros were provided by the Federal Government of Germany with a grant of 6.5 million euros and the State of Berlin with 1.9 million euros.

No 14/May 23, 2006

New Insights into the Building of the Heart Muscle

The heart is the first functioning organ in the developing mouse embryo. As the heart contracts with each heartbeat, it pumps blood through the body. The smallest unit involved in the contraction of the heart muscle is the sarcomere. An important component of the sarcomere is titin, a huge protein, consisting of more than 27,000 amino acids. The elastic titin provides for the scaffolding of the muscle. Stefanie Weinert from the research group of Professor Michael Gotthardt from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has now taken a closer look at this protein, which is the largest protein known so far.

No 13/May 12, 2006

12 Million Euros from the European Commission for “RUBICON”

The European Commission in Brussels has awarded a 12 Million Euro grant to foster the collaboration of European experts in the field of Ubiquitin research. The Ubiquitin system plays a crucial role in important cellular processes such as the removal of proteins no longer required or insufficiently constructed, the regulation of the cell cycle, immune response, and the repair of DNA. When this system is defective, it can lead to infectious and inflammatory diseases, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer`s and Parkinson`s disease. A consortium of 15 leading research laboratories in Europe and Israel, among them the Max Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, and five small and medium enterprises have initiated this research project entitled the “Role of Ubiquitin and Ubiquitin-like Modifiers in Cellular Regulation”, or RUBICON for short. Prof. Maria Masucci, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, will serve as the coordinator of the Network.

No 12/April 7, 2006

Where’s the Starting Point?

Researchers try to unravel the mystery of DNA Replication During Cell Division

Cells divide so that an organism can grow, wounds can heal or cells with a limited lifetime, such as blood cells, can be renewed. However, before a cell starts to divide it must first replicate its entire genetic makeup (i.e., its DNA). This basic biological principle holds true for yeast, bacteria, viruses, and animals, and, thus, also for humans. The cell must ensure that the entire genetic material – in humans three billion nucleotides – is replicated without loss, thus preventing the genome from becoming unstable and causing malformations or diseases such as cancer. But how and where does DNA replication start? “For the last 20 years, researchers have tried to identify such starting points or origins in the DNA of mammals. But we cannot find them”, says Dr. Manfred Gossen, research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. Shedding light onto this “blackbox”, as he says, is one of the scientists in his laboratory, Dr. Anand Ranjan (now at the National Institutes of Health, NIH, USA) who has just authored a paper in the Proceedings of the National Ascademy of Sciences (PNAS) (Vol.103, No. 13, pp.4864-4869, 2006).

No. 11/April 6, 2006

Regulatory Mechanism Discovered for Fibril Formation in Nerve Cells in Hereditary Movement Disorder

When they fall ill, they are between the ages of 30 and 40. Common symptoms are poor balance when walking, impaired coordination of hand and leg movements, and unclear, slurred speech. These people suffer from spinocerebellar ataxia, an incurable hereditary nervous disorder of which there are more than 28 different forms. The symptoms are triggered by degenerating neurons in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that regulates the involuntary movements of the body. Cell death in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 is caused by protein deposits in the neurons, which are formed from a pathogenic form of the protein ataxin-3 (Atx-3). Now, Dr. Annett Böddrich, a biochemist at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in the research group of Prof. Erich Wanker, and Dr. Sébastien Gaumer (research group of Prof. Nancy Bonini of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, currently at the University of Versailles, France) have discovered that the pathogenic process of Atx-3 deposition might be influenced by the valosin-containing protein (VCP). Their research results have just been published in the EMBO Journal (Vol. 25, No. 7, pp. 1547 - 1558, 2006)*.

No 10/April 6, 2006

Prof. Walter Birchmeier new Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center

Prof. Walter Birchmeier is the new Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. The MDC Board of Trustees appointed him to the position for a period of three years, effective as of January 1, 2006. As the former deputy chairman of the MDC Executive Board, Prof. Birchmeier had served as interim director since April 2004. As Scientific Director, his aim will be to strengthen research in molecular medicine and, in particular, to promote the collaboration between basic and clinical researchers. Through a collaboration between the MDC and the Charité Medical School Berlin, he plans to establish an Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) devoted to translational research.

No. 9/March 15, 2006

World-Renowned Neurobiologist Accepts Position at Berlin-Buch

Professor Thomas Jentsch will assume a position at the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology and at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine starting in mid-2006.

The neurobiologist Professor Thomas Jentsch (52) from Hamburg has accepted an appointment in Berlin. Beginning this summer, he will head the Department of Physiology and Pathology of Ion Transport at the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin-Buch. The success of the appointment process is the result of a cooperation beyond the scope of the research organizations acting individually. The research group of the world-renowned scientist is being jointly funded: 50 per cent  by the FMP (Leibniz Association) and 50 per cent  by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Helmholtz Association). Likewise, the appointment to a W3 professorship was made jointly by the FMP and the Charité – University Medical School Berlin. Prof. Jentsch will move into the new laboratory building for medical genome research erected by both the FMP and the MDC on the Campus Berlin-Buch.

No 8/March 15, 2006

Survival Factor Protects Against Heart Failure

Heart failure is the leading cause of mortality in the world, responsible for at least 20 per cent of all hospital admissions among people over 65 in the United States. What causes the loss of heart muscles cells associated with heart failure and ischemic heart disease has been unclear. Now, researchers and clinicians in Germany have demonstrated for the first time that heart failure is triggered by apoptosis, a programm which causes the heart muscle cells to commit suicide. They also showed that a survival factor, abbreviated ARC, is able to protect the heart. The findings of Dr. Stefan Donath, Dr. Peifing Li, Prof. Rainer Dietz, and Dr. Rüdiger von Harsdorf (now Toronto, Canada) from the Charité – Medical School of the University of Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have now been published in the journal Circulation (2006; 113:1203-1212)*.

No 7/March 15, 2006

“Thou shalt not clone!”

Reference to Immanuel Kant

“The arbitrary production of a genetically identical person (i.e., reproductive cloning) is ethically reprehensible because the egoism of the clone generator restricts the clone’s autonomy and should, therefore, be prohibited”, stresses Dr. Christof Tannert, head of the research group Bioethics and Science Communications at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in a viewpoint just published in the EMBO reports (Vol. 7, No. 3, 2006, pp238-240)*. Self-determination, autonomy of an individual is an essential part of the definition of being human, the biologist and theologian continues, referring to the philosopher Immanuel Kant and his Categorical Imperative: “Act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means”.

No. 6/March 10, 2006

Protection Against Heart Enlargement

When the heart is weakened, it tries to compensate for its impaired pumping function through an enlargement of the heart muscle cells. Physicians speak in this case of cardiac hypertrophy, abnormal enlargement of the heart. Heart enlargement can occur, for instance, as a result of high blood pressure. Now, a group of scientists at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch has demonstrated in animal experiments that a certain hormone, called CNP for short, can protect the heart muscle from thickening abnormally. The research work of Dr. Thomas Langenickel, Jens Buttgereit, and Prof. Michael Bader of the MDC in collaboration with researchers of the Charité – University Medical School Berlin, the Free University of Berlin, and the University Clinic Giessen has just been published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)* on Monday March 13, 2006.

No. 5/March 8, 2006

Molecular Invasion - Sleeping Beauty Affects Cell Cycle of Host Cell

Can mobile genetic elements or transposons be used as genetic tools for gene discovery or for gene therapy? And how do they affect their host cell? These are questions which Dr. Zoltán Ivics and Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvák from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in Germany have been pursuing for the last few years. The scientists constructed an artificial transposon which they named Sleeping Beauty. The transposon is based on an ancient genomic element from fish, which was presumably active 20 million years ago and, in the laboratory, has been awakened after a long evolutionary sleep. Now, the researchers report on how Sleeping Beauty interacts with a host cell. They found that it affects the cell cycle, a process which a cell undergoes during replication. They were able to show that Sleeping Beauty slows down the growth of the cell by interacting with a gene regulator (Miz-1) and, thus, modulating the G1 phase of the cell cycle, usually a period of general cell growth. The researchers assume that Sleeping Beauty acts very selfishly. During G1-phase it maximizes its chance of more successfully invading the host cell. Also, it is a phase of the cell cycle where transposon-induced DNA-damage can be efficiently repaired by the host cell. The findings of Dr. Oliver Walisko, Dr. Izsvák, and Dr. Ivics have now been published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS; http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0507683103v1)*. Subsequent experiments will concentrate on a detailed survey of transpositional efficiency during each phase of the cell cycle and will be designed to uncover the relative contribution of different DNA repair pathways to the transposition process.

No. 4/ March, 6, 2006

Running Activity of Mice during Pregnancy Stimulates Neurogenesis in Offspring

Jogging is apparently beneficial for brain development. This is the implication of the latest findings of brain researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité – University Medical School Berlin. According to the study, mouse offspring whose mothers exercised voluntarily during pregnancy by running on an excercise wheel developed about 40 percent more neuronal cells than the offspring of inactive mouse mothers. The increase appeared in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is strongly involved in learning and memory processes. As Dr. Anika Bick-Sander and Dr. Gerd Kempermann have now reported in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)* it is not yet completely clear what causes this effect. Certain growth factors and pre- and postnatal maternal behavior do seem to play a role. “Still, the results of our research on mice cannot be simply extrapolated to humans,” Dr. Kempermann stresses. That is why he does not want the findings to be considered as concrete advice for expectant mothers to exercise more to stimulate brain development in their children. “Our results, however, show that, at least in mice, maternal physical activity has surprisingly direct effects on the brain development of the offspring.” He points out that, until now, there have hardly been any studies in humans on the effects that sport during pregnancy might have on the development of the children. “Our work indicates that this could be a rewarding area of research,” says the brain researcher, who for years has focused on stem cells of the brain and has addressed questions regarding neurogenesis due to physical and cognitive activity.

No. 3/March 1, 2006

Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky from New York University appointed to the MDC and the Charité in Berlin – Successor of Professor Jens Reich

Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky, an expert in bioinformatics at New York University, New York, USA, has been appointed to the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and the Charité - Medical School in Berlin, Germany. He is the successor of Professor Jens Reich, research group leader at the MDC in bioinformatics and eminent figure as a former human rights activist in the GDR. Professor Rajewsky, currently Professor for biology and mathematics at the “Center for Comparative Functional Genomics” at New York University, will move to Berlin this summer. He will work in the Laboratory for Medical Genomics, a new building which the MDC and the Leibniz-Institute for Molecular Pharmacology jointly erected on the Berlin-Buch Campus in the Northeast of Berlin, where both institutions are located. “We are very proud to have succeeded in getting Nikolaus Rajewsky, one of the leading experts in bioinformatics, to Berlin-Buch”, MDC’s Scientific Director Professor Walter Birchmeier said. “His appointment will enable the MDC to further strengthen its bioinformatics program and intensify our collaborations with other researchers”.

No. 2/3 February 2006

Researchers Want to Create Kidney Atlas

In the years ahead, researchers want to create a three-dimensional (3D) kidney atlas incorporating the latest knowledge about the development and diseases of the kidney. The primary aim of the researchers is to map key genes that play a major role in these processes in order to improve the diagnosis and therapy of renal diseases and to reduce the high cost of treatment. The atlas is part of the European Renal Genome Project (EuReGene), which is funded by the European Union with a budget of more than 10 million Euros. Eighteen research groups from non-university institutes and universities as well as six university clinics in nine European countries* are involved in this project, which is coordinated by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. On the 3rd of February 2006, the first EuReGene symposium was held at the MDC, with about 150 researchers from Europe and the U.S. attending. Guest speakers included Prof. Gerd Walz of the University Hospital Freiburg, Prof. Adrian S. Woolf of the Institute of Child Health, University College London, Prof. Elizabeth Robertson of the University of Oxford, and Prof. Andy McMahon of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA.

No 1/February 3, 2006

Cancer Researcher Professor Arnold Graffi Dies in Berlin

Discovered Cancer Viruses and Carcinogenic Chemical Substances

Professor Dr. Arnold Graffi, eminent physician and cancer researcher, died in Berlin on Monday, January 30, 2006 at the age of 95 following a long illness as announced by his family. “Professor Graffi was one of the pioneers of experimental cancer research of the 20th century in Germany”, declared Professor Dr. Walter Birchmeier, scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch.