No. 35 / December 23 2015

Changing Architecture: A new understanding of the spatial organization of our genome

It has now been 15 years since scientists celebrated the completion of the human genome. At that point, scientists had determined the entire sequence of the genetic letters making up our DNA. It is now known that this was only an initial step in a long journey: in addition to the chemical letters, information is also encoded in the manner in which the DNA is packed inside the cell nucleus. A research team led by Ana Pombo from the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin-Buch, in collaboration with international colleagues from Italy, Canada and Great Britain, has now generated comprehensive 3D maps of the spatial organization of the mouse genome, from embryonic stem cells to fully developed neurons. The work has been published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology. In the future such maps might help track down genes that are involved in hereditary diseases.

No. 34 / December 21 2015

Technology transfer success: US approval for bleeding disorder drug

VONVENDI [von Willebrand factor (Recombinant)]”, the new drug from Baxalta Incorporated, a global biopharmaceutical company recently spun off from Baxter International, has just been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It is the first, and so far the only, recombinant protein for the treatment of von Willebrand disease, and offers those affected a new therapeutic option for the first time in more than 10 years.

No. 33/December 15 2015

Drug against aggressive leukemia gets approval for Europe

The drug Blincyto (Blinatumomab) has now been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Blinatumomab is used to treat patients with a very aggressive form of blood cancer, and is the result of work carried out at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) over ten years ago.

 

No. 32/December 14 2015

Sudden cardiac death: large study to improve risk assessment

One of the most common causes of sudden cardiac death in young people is a genetic condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). However, it is difficult to assess the risk of sudden cardiac death among people with this condition using current methods. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a large-scale study that should considerably improve risk assessment in this area. The Outpatient Clinic for Cardiology at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association and of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is leading the clinical trials being conducted at participating German research centers with MRI expertise.

 

No. 31/ December 2, 2015

1000th MRI study participant at NAKO in Berlin-Buch

The 1000th study participant has completed the one-hour examination in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) belonging to the NAKO Study Center Berlin-Nord on the Berlin-Buch Campus. It's Michael Cygan from Berlin. This was announced today by Prof. Thoralf Niendorf, head of the Berlin Ultrahigh Field Facility at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association. The Study Centre Berlin-Nord is one of 18 study centers nationwide that are involved in the NAKO, the largest population study in Germany. It is also one of five study centers of NAKO that have an MRI. The aim of NAKO is to improve the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.


Read the full German press release here

Nr. 30/26. November 2015

Genetic cause of cleft palate

Some children are born with cleft palates and, of those children, some have an asymmetrical face and a malformed ear. A team of scientists led by Berlin-based researcher Enno Klußmann of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) has taken an important step towards discovering the genetic causes of this condition, known as Goldenhar syndrome.

Nr. 29/25. November 2015

Insights into the “dark zone”

New findings on differentiation and malignant transformation of B lymphocytes

B-cell lymphoma is one of the most common cancers derived from the lymphoid system. Lymphomagenesis is often linked to the so-called germinal center reaction. B lymphocytes represent a subgroup of the white blood cells, whose expansion after infection leads to germinal center formation. Within the germinal center, the ‘light’ zone selects the most highly functional germinal center B cells that have been generated in the ‘dark’ zone. This zoning leads to an efficient immune response. Klaus Rajewsky’s group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin has now helped illuminate the processes within the dark zone. “The transcription factor FOXO1 was the main focus of our analyses,” reports Sandrine Sander. She and her colleagues analyzed the impact of FOXO1 on B cells in the germinal center. “FOXO1 is a new key element for the formation of the dark zone and is thereby decisively involved in immune defense,” emphasize Dr. Sander and Prof. Rajewsky, whose findings have been published in the current edition of Immunity.

No. 28/ November 6, 2015

Neurodermatitis genes influence other allergies

There’s a typical "career" for some allergic people, and it starts very early on the skin: babies develop atopic dermatitis, food allergies may follow, then comes asthma and later on hay fever. A group of scientists led by Ingo Marenholz and Young-Ae Lee at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), working with colleagues from several institutions, has now identified seven genetic risk loci for this course of disease. Two of these loci were previously unknown and mainly influence the connection between atopic dermatitis and asthma. According to the study, the regions that determine the risk for atopic dermatitis are mainly those that also determine the risk for the further development of the typical allergic career. This course of disease is also called the "atopic march." The scientists analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people and published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

No. 27/ November 3, 2015

Uptake mechanisms of cytostatics discovered

How does a cytostatic like cisplatin or carboplatin actually get into the cell? Scientists at the MaxDelbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin, in cooperation with a Dutch group, have now succeeded in showing that the volume-regulated anion channel VRAC is 50 % responsible for active substance uptake. If one of the VRAC subunits LRRC8A or LRRC8D is down-regulated, cells take up considerably less of the anti-cancer drug. In addition to this finding, programmed cell death or apoptosis is also significantly disturbed when LRRC8A is missing. The researchers have thus identified a potential cause for therapy resistance. The new findings have just appeared in the specialist magazine the EMBO Journal and hold high clinical relevance.

October 29, 2015

Top European research institutes move towards gender equality

Approximately half of the PhD students in Europe are women. However, the levels of women researchers decrease at the postdoctoral level and drop dramatically in leadership positions. These numbers demonstrate a dramatic waste of talent and resources in education, research and the labour market.

 

Thirteen research institutes in life sciences in Europe, all of them partnering the EU-LIFE alliance, are to beat the current unbalanced situation regarding men and women in science. Supported by a gender expert organisation they will undertake the LIBRA project, aimed to evaluate the current status of gender equality in the different institutes and implement innovative actions to increase representation and participation of women in leadership positions in life sciences in Europe as well as raising science excellence by including sex and gender dimension in their research.

No. 26/October 21, 2015

Too much Salt in Food can push the Immune System out of Equilibrium

Too much salt in food can influence the immune system. In a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation*, Dr. Katrina Binger, Matthias Gebhardt, and Professor Dominik Müller from the Experimental Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin establish that increased salt consumption by rodents leads to delayed healing of their wounds because too much salt pushes the immune system out of equilibrium. At the same time, they were successful in explaining the mechanism causing this imbalance.

No. 25 / October 20, 2015

Ten new Genetic Risk Loci for Eczema Discovered

International Study with over 50,000 Eczema Patients

Researchers in Europe, Australia, Asia, and America have now discovered ten new risk loci for the chronic inflammatory skin disease eczema. Among the new candidate genes for eczema, the researchers came upon genes that are important for the innate immune system and for the development and function of T-cells which play an important role in specific immune responses. This emphasizes the importance of the immune system in the onset and progression of eczema. With the newly identified risk regions, a total of 31 risk regions for eczema are now known (Nature Genetics, doi:10.1038/ng3424).

No. 24/October 19, 2015

From Vancouver to Berlin: W3 Professorship for Bioinformatician Irmtraud Meyer at the FU Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center

The bioinformatician Irmtraud Meyer of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has accepted the appointment to a W3 professorship for “Bioinformatics of the RNA Structure and Transcriptome Regulation” at the Freie Universität Berlin (FU) in cooperation with the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). The two institutions have thus succeeded in recruiting an internationally recognized scientist to Berlin and to strengthen the field of systems biology and systems medicine. Professor Meyer will begin her work in Berlin during this winter term and thus return to Germany after 16 years of research abroad.

No. 23/October 6, 2015

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Professor Amanda Fisher from London

Prize Award Ceremony at the Max Delbrück Center

The British cell biologist Professor Amanda Gay Fisher of Imperial College (ICL) London has been honored with the Helmholtz International Fellow Award for her excellent research. In a prize ceremony at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Berlin, Germany, MDC’s interim director Professor Thomas Sommer presented the certificate to her on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015. Professor Fisher wishes in particular to strengthen her existing collaborations with the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) of the MDC. She is one of seven outstanding researchers from abroad who received the award in 2015, each of which is endowed with 20,000 euros.

No. 22/ October 2, 2015

Big eyes! – MDC Researchers Identify Cause of Inherited Form of Extreme Nearsightedness

“Why, Grandma, what big eyes you have!” Though similar in appearance, the hidden cause of those big eyes Little Red Riding Hood notices in Grimms’ fairy tale has nothing to do with the hidden cause of enlarged eyeballs in buphthalmia, a genetic mechanism causing this devastating eye disease which has now been uncovered by Dr. Annabel Christ and Prof. Thomas Willnow from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). Patients afflicted are severely myopic, or nearsighted (Developmental Cell, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2015.09.001)⃰⃰⃰⃰⃰⃰.

No. 21/September 29, 2015

Full Professorship for Dr. Wei Chen from the MDC

Geneticist and genome researcher Dr. Wei Chen of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz-Association (MDC) has become full professor for “Functional Genomics and Systems Biology” at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Professor Chen also heads a research group at the BIMSB in addition to the central core facility “Genomics“, which he has set up during the past few years.

No. 20/September 17, 2015

Professor Thomas Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

Multiple Research Approaches at the MDC

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 35 million people worldwide, and currently one million people are estimated to be affected in Germany. With the increasing life expectancy, scientists are concerned that the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will double in the next 25 years if it is not possible to treat the disease or prevent its onset. “We are gaining clearer insights into how Alzheimer’s develops,” said Professor Thomas Willnow of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) on the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day. He hopes that these insights will lead to the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

No. 19/ September 15, 2015

Twenty-five Years Ago Professor Thomas Jentsch Opened Up a New Field of Research

British Journal Devotes a Special Issue to the Discovery

A quarter of a century ago, the physicist, physician and cell biologist Professor Thomas Jentsch and his research team opened up an entirely new field of research in the field of ion transport. Now the British journal “The Journal of Physiology” has devoted a special section in its latest issue to his discovery. In this issue (DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2014.270043), Professor Jentsch, who leads a research group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and at the neighboring Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP), and several authors, report on this field, which has acquired great importance not only for basic research but also for clinical research.

No. 18/August 31, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers: MACC1 Gene Is an Independent Prognostic Biomarker for Survival in Klatskin Tumor Patients

Aid in Deciding Whether Surgery Is Best Option

Bile duct cancer is rare and is usually detected too late. Often only extensive liver surgery can help or, in rare cases, liver transplantation. But which patients will benefit from surgery and which will not, because their risk of cancer recurrence is too high? With the oncogene MACC1 as a biomarker, physicians for the first time have a tool to decide which treatment option is best for patients with Klatskin carcinoma, one type of bile duct cancer. If MACC1 expression is low, the patients have a good chance that surgery will prolong survival. By contrast, if the gene is upregulated, the risk of recurrence is high. These were the findings of a study by Andri Lederer and Professor Ulrike Stein of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), an institutional cooperation between the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin on Campus Berlin -Buch (Hepatology; 2015;62:841-850)*.

No. 17/August 27, 2015

MDC and MHH Researchers Show How Dynamin Mediates Membrane Constriction and Scission

A Vital Process

Cells continually form membrane vesicles that are released into the cell. If this vital process is disturbed, nerve cells, for example, cannot communicate with each other. The protein molecule dynamin is essential for the regulated formation and release of many vesicles. Scientists of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Institute for Biophysical Chemistry of Hannover Medical School (MHH), together with researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin and the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP), have now elucidated the regulated process by which the molecular “motor” dynamin assembles into a screw-like structure. Moreover, they demonstrated how specific mutations impair the function of dynamin, for example in the congenital muscle disorder centronuclear myopathy or the neuropathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (Nature, doi:10.1038/nature14880)**. The researchers’ study represents an important contribution to the development of new therapeutic approaches.

No. 16/August 13, 2015

Skeletal Muscle Atrophy in Congestive Heart Failure

Mechanism Elucidated by MDC and Charité Researchers

It is a paradox: Patients with advanced congestive heart failure lose skeletal muscle mass, but their heart muscles become enlarged to provide the body with an adequate supply of blood and thus with oxygen. It has long been known that the protein angiotensin II plays a villainous role in this process, but the exact mechanism has remained unclear. Now, after seven years of fitting the pieces of this puzzle together, the biologist Dr. Philipp Du Bois and the cardiologist PD Dr. Jens Fielitz of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in collaboration with the molecular biologist Professor Eric N. Olson (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA) have elucidated the process and identified new therapeutic targets (Circulation Research doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.114.305393)*.

August 4, 2015

German Stem Cell Network awards first scientific prizes

Excellent Stem Cell Researchers

New in the Stem Cell Field: The German Stem Cell Network (GSCN) has presented its first awards to stem cell researchers in Germany. With the prizes, the Network emphasizes a significant and very dynamic scientific field. „Next to publications, awards count as important milestones in a scientist’s career,“ says Dr. Daniel Besser, managing director of the GSCN. One award goes to a talented junior scientist; another aims to recognize an excellent female scientist, supporting the important role that women play in science, as a means of calling more attention to her work. The third award goes to the best publication from July 2014 to June 2015 and highlights the “pole position” of German stem cell research in the international arena.

August 3, 2015

Formula Pharmaceuticals and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Enter Into an Exclusive Licensing Agreement and Strategic Collaboration to Develop C.I.K. CAR™ Immunotherapies

Formula Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) announced today the establishment of an exclusive licensing agreement and strategic collaboration for the development of Cytokine Induced Killer (C.I.K.) cell-based Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) immunotherapies, using MDC’s proprietary SB100X transposase, a component of the non-viral, Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon-based gene transfer system.

No. 15/July 31, 2015

RNA-binding Protein Influences Key Mediator of Cellular Inflammation and Stress Responses

Messenger (mRNA) molecules are a key component of protein biosynthesis. They are first transcribed as a “working copy” of the DNA and then translated into protein molecules. RNA-binding proteins such as RC3H1 (also known as ROQUIN) regulate the degradation of the mRNA molecules and thus prevent the production of specific proteins. Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) have now shown that ROQUIN binds several thousand mRNA molecules. They demonstrated that ROQUIN also influences the gene regulator NF-kappaB, a key mediator of cellular inflammation and stress responses (Nature Communications, Article number: 7367)*.

No. 14/July 27, 2015

Georg Forster Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Granted to Brazilian Cardiovascular Researcher

Cooperation with the MDC

The cardiovascular researcher Professor Robson Augusto Souza dos Santos of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, has been awarded the Georg Forster Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH). The award will enable him to intensify his longstanding cooperation with Professor Michael Bader and his research group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). Robson Santos will come this year and next year to the MDC for research stays lasting several months. The award is endowed with EUR 60 000.

No. 13/July 10, 2015

MDC Symposium in Honor of Professor Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler on the Occasion of her 60th Birthday

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) has honored Professor Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler with a symposium about the latest findings in the neurosciences entitled “Frontiers in Developmental Neuroscience”. The internationally renowned developmental biologist and gene researcher has headed a research group at the MDC since 1995. Professor Thomas Sommer, interim scientific director of the MDC, praised her outstanding research work, for which she received the Leibniz Prize, the most important research prize in Germany in 2002. In his laudatory address, Professor Sommer said, “Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler has strongly influenced the MDC and contributed to its integral role in the science scene in Berlin.

No. 12/June 18, 2015

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Prof. Yehudit Bergman from Israel

Prize Award Ceremony at the Max Delbrück Center

The Israeli immunologist and cancer researcher Professor Yehudit Bergman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI), Israel, has been honored with the Helmholtz International Fellow Award for her excellent research. In a prize ceremony at the MDC Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association in Berlin, Germany, MDC’s interim director Professor Thomas Sommer presented the certificate to her on Thursday, June 18th, 2015. The prize had already been awarded to her in 2013, but Professor Bergman was not able to accept it personally until now.

 

No. 11/June 16, 2015

Slight Differences – New Insights into the Regulation of Disease-Associated Genes

Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association, in collaboration with the National Heart Research Institute in Singapore (NHRIS), have gained new insights into the regulation of disease-associated genes. They used a new technique that enables them to observe gene regulation at the level of protein production. They could thus capture more individual gene regulations than with traditional methods that only capture gene expression and transcription (Nature Communications, doi: 10.1038/ncomms8200)*.

No. 10/May 11, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers Identify Gene Responsible for Hypertension and Brachydactyly

Individuals with this altered gene have hereditary hypertension (high blood pressure) and at the same time a skeletal malformation called brachydactyly type E, which is characterized by unusually short fingers and toes. The effect on blood pressure is so serious that – if left untreated – it most often leads to death before age fifty. After more than 20 years of research, scientists of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the MDC Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have now identified the gene that causes this rare syndrome. In six families not related to each other they discovered different point mutations in the gene encoding phosphodiesterase-3A (PDE3A). These mutations always lead to high blood pressure and shortened bones of the extremities, particularly the metacarpal and metatarsal bones. This syndrome is the first Mendelian hypertension form (salt-resistant) not based on salt reabsorption but instead is more directly related to resistance in small blood vessels (Nature Genetics online, doi:10.1038/ng.3302)*.

No. 9/ April 24, 2015

Systematic Interaction Network Filtering in Biobanks: MDC Neurobiologists Identify Protective Protein against Huntington’s Disease

While seeking targets to attack Huntington’s disease, an incurable inherited neurodegenerative disorder, neurobiologists of the research group led by Professor Erich Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association found what they were looking for. Using a filtering strategy borrowed from criminologists, the researchers systematically filtered interaction networks of various biological databases. In several steps, they increasingly narrowed down their search until they ultimately found the protein (CRMP1). In subsequent lab experiments the researchers showed that CRMP1 acts like a “chaperone”, ensuring that the protein huntingtin (HTT) behaves correctly and does not misfold or clump. Dysregulated modulation of the HTT protein by the CRMP1 protein is regarded as a causal mechanism of Huntington’s disease (Genome Research, doi:10.1101/gr.182444.114)*.

April 15, 2015

OMEICOS Therapeutics Raises EUR 6.2 Million in Series A to Advance Lead Candidate in Atrial Fibrillation

OMEICOS Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class small molecule therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases including atrial fibrillation (AF), today announced that it has raised EUR 6.2 million in a Series A round. Participating in the round were Vesalius Biocapital II S.A. SICAR, acting as lead; a SMS Group Company; VC Fonds Technologie Berlin; Hightech Gruenderfonds II GmbH & Co. KG (HTGF); and KfW Group. As part of the financing round, the company has received subsidies of EUR 550,000 via Ascenion’s Spinnovator, a grant program supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

March 31, 2015

Drug candidate based on MDC patent submitted for FDA approval

At the end of last year, Baxter International Inc. announced that the company has submitted a biologics license application to the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of BAX111, a recombinant von Willebrand factor (rVWF) in development for the treatment of patients with von Willebrand disease, the most common type of inherited bleeding disorder. The candidate received orphan-drug designation from both the European Commission and the FDA.

No. 8/March 25, 2015

MDC Researchers Greatly Increase Precision of New Genome Editing Tool

“One of the hottest topics in science and an innovative field”

CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful new tool for editing the genome. For researchers around the world, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique is an exciting innovation because it is faster and cheaper than previous methods. Now, using a molecular trick, Dr. Van Trung Chu and Professor Klaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Ralf Kühn, MDC and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), have found a solution to considerably increase the efficiency of precise genetic modifications by up to eightfold (Nature Biotechnology, doi:10.1038/nbt.3198)**.

No.7/March 19, 2015

MDC Researchers Uncover Regulatory Network in the Kidney

The kidney carries out vital functions by continuously filtering the blood and excreting waste products into the urine. This is achieved by a complex system of tubules which transports the urine and regulates its composition. PhD student Annekatrin Aue, Dr. Christian Hinze and Professor Kai Schmidt-Ott of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) have now discovered how parts of these kidney tubules establish an inner space (lumen) and form a tight barrier against adjacent structures. The epithelial cells which line the tubules coordinate these processes through a novel molecular signaling pathway (Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2014080759)1.

No. 6/March 19, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers Tweak the Immune System to Target Cells Bearing Tumor Antigens

Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Berlin-Buch, have succeeded in generating cells of the immune system to specifically target and destroy cancer cells. The research findings of Matthias Obenaus, Professor Thomas Blankenstein (MDC and Charité), Dr. Matthias Leisegang (MDC) and Professor Wolfgang Uckert (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and MDC) as well as Professor Dolores Schendel (Medigene AG, Planegg/Martinsried) have now been published in Nature Biotechnology online (doi:10.1038/nbt.3147)*.

No. 5/ March 16, 2015

MDC Cancer Researchers Identify New Function in an Old Acquaintance

Enzyme Shuts Off Protection Program Senescence

Cells have two different programs to safeguard them from getting out of control and developing cancer. One of them is senescence (biological aging). It puts cancer cells into a permanent sleep so they no longer divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. Now the research group led by Professor Walter Birchmeier (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch) has discovered that an enzyme known to be active in breast cancer and leukemia blocks this protection program and boosts tumor growth. They succeeded in blocking this enzyme in mice with breast cancer, thus reactivating senescence and stopping tumor growth (EMBO-Journal, DOI 10.15252/embj.201489004)*.

No. 4/March 10, 2015

MDC Researchers Discover New Signaling Pathway in Embryonic Development

During pregnancy, the mother supplies the fetus with nutrients and oxygen via the placenta. If placental development is impaired, this may lead to growth disorders of the embryo or to life-threatening diseases of the mother such as preeclampsia, a serious condition involving high blood pressure and increased urinary protein excretion. Now, Dr. Katharina Walentin and Professor Kai Schmidt-Ott of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have discovered a new molecular signaling pathway which regulates the development of the placenta. Perturbations of this pathway in mice cause developmental defects of the placenta (Development, doi:10.1242/dev.113829)*.

No. 3/ February 19, 2015

New Insights on DNA Transcription: Start Region Shown to Be Directional

To bind enzymes that read a gene at the right place, the DNA contains so-called promoters, recognition sequences that are located near the transcription start sites of the genes. Since the advent of high-throughput sequencing technology, which enables the precise investigation of gene expression patterns, scientists had shown that a large percentage of promoters is not unidirectional and that the DNA is read on both opposing strands. Now, in the present study, Professor Uwe Ohler of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and Professor James T. Kadonaga of the University of California in San Diego (USA) have shown in human cells that a central part of promoters, the core promoter, is intrinsically unidirectional. Thus, transcripts of the opposing DNA strand arise from their own core promoters (Molecular Cell, doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2014.12.029)*.

February 18, 2015

European Research Council grants: Good news for EU-LIFE centres, but with a bitter aftertaste

EU-LIFE European research centres obtained 14 new ERC Starting and Consolidator grants in the latest competitions, which takes the total of ERC-funded grants currently running in centres belonging to the alliance to over 100. As a whole, EU-LIFE partners have a success rate of at least three times higher than the general success rate of ERC Starting and Consolidator grants (over 33% compared to an average of 10%). But this news comes with a bitter aftertaste, as the announced cuts in the Horizon 2020 budget (including ERC) due to the so-called Juncker’s plan may now jeopardise Europe’s competitiveness in future research and innovation.

No. 2/January 26, 2015

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Prof. Amanda Fisher from London

Cooperation with the Max Delbrück Center

The British cell biologist Professor Amanda Gay Fisher of Imperial College London (ICL) has been honored with the Helmholtz International Fellow Award for her excellent research. Fisher is one of seven outstanding researchers from abroad who received the award, each of which is endowed with 20,000 euros. According to the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest scientific organization, the award also includes an invitation to visit one or several Helmholtz research centers. Professor Fisher wishes in particular to strengthen her existing collaborations with the Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch.

 

No. 1/January 7, 2015

Reprogramming Liver Cells into Pancreas Cells - New European Research Grant for Diabetes Researcher Dr. Francesca Spagnoli of the MDC

Diabetes researcher Dr. Francesca Spagnoli of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch has been awarded an extra research grant from the European Research Council (ERC). This Proof-of-Concept (PoC) grant is endowed with 150,000 euros over a period of two years. It is designed for researchers who already hold an ERC grant in order to transform their research results into practical applications. Dr. Spagnoli was named one of 50* recipients of this grant in 2014. In 2009 she received a one million euro ERC Starting Grant for her research on reprogramming liver cells into pancreas cells. Now, after having identified a factor that converts murine liver cells into pancreas cells, she wants to investigate whether human liver cells can also be reprogrammed into insulin-producing cells.