No. 6/December 20, 2000

How variable are our genes?

Study to help discover the causes of disease and develop made-to-measure drugs

A new and surprising insight into the variability of human genes has been obtained by researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and GenProfile AG (Berlin-Buch) in one of the most comprehensive studies that has ever been published. They have comparatively analyzed the sequence of the so-called mu opioid receptor gene (abbr.: OPRM1) in about 250 blood samples. This gene carries information for the synthesis of a protein which has a number of important roles including regulating the binding of analgesics and drugs of addiction, such as morphine, in the brain. In the blood samples studied, the physician and molecular geneticist, Dr. Margret Hoehe (MDC and Genprofile AG) found a total of 52 individually different forms of this gene. Commenting on her finding, Dr. Hoehe said: ”This result and the strategies we have taken to analyse the relationship between mu opioid receptor gene forms and the disease are important for identifying the causes of disease and developing new, specific-acting treatments tailor-made for individual patients. In addition, our research shows just how variable genes really are and, therefore, how difficult it is to identify any direct relationship between genetic predisposition and common, complex diseases.” This study by Dr. Hoehe and her colleagues, together with US researchers at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Pennsylvania State, has been published in the British journal Human Molecular Genetics (Vol. 9, No. 19, 2000, pp. 2895-2908)*.

No. 5/1. December 2000

Gene region for atopic dermatitis discovered on chromosome 3

Atopic dermatitis is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease. Along with asthma and hay fever, atopic dermatitis is an important manifestation of atopy that is characterized by the tendency to form allergy antibodies (IgE) to environmental allergens. Inherited and environmental factors determine the risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Researchers at the Charité Division of Pediatric Pneumology and Immunology of the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin Buch, have carried out a European multinational investigation and identified, for the first time, a region on chromosome 3 which contains a gene for atopic dermatitis. This research has just appeared in the latest issue of Nature Genetics (Vol. 26, No. 4, pp.470-473)* .

No. 4/December 1, 2000

Hot on the trail of the ”twin gene”

Close cooperation between Berlin researchers and Polish and Finnish scientists

Multiple conceptions in humans is more common than the number of non-identical twins ultimately born. A possible reason for this has been identified by scientists from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Franz Volhard Cardiovascular Clinic (University Charité Clinic, Berlin-Buch Campus) in collaboration with Polish and Finnish colleagues. The research carried out by Dr. Andreas Busjahn* and colleagues in Germany and abroad has just appeared in British journal Nature Genetics (Vol. 26, No. 4, pp 398 et seq.).

No. 3/November 21, 2000

First trans-European network for telemedicine

14 clinics in six countries are taking part - The OP 2000 research group from Berlin-Buch introduces the system at the Düsseldorf Medica exhibition

To improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the OP 2000 research group at the Robert Rössle Cancer Clinic (Charité Hospital, Berlin Humboldt University, Berlin-Buch campus) has established the first operational trans-European network for telemedicine. A satellite links 14 clinics in six different countries : Bulgaria, Germany, France, Greece, Italy and Tunisia. The system uses a combination of the latest laser, video, communication and computer technologies. The new system is presented to the world at the Medica medical technology fair in Düsseldorf (November 22 - 25, 2000) (Medica, Hall 14E29).

No. 1/28. January 2000

New Treatment for Soft Tissue Tumors approved

A new treatment for soft tissue tumors (soft tissue sarcoma), which in most cases will allow the affected arm or leg to be saved from amputation, has now received approval by the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medical Products (EMEB) in London (UK). This has just been announced by Prof. Peter M. Schlag, Director of Surgery and Oncological Surgery at the Robert Rössle Cancer Clinic, part of the Charité Hospital of the Humboldt University, located on the Berlin Buch Campus. According to Prof. Schlag, the approval of this new treatment is the result of close collaboration between clinicians at the Rössle Clinic, basic researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin-Buch, and a biotechnology company. Ferdy Lejeune, University of Vaudois Teaching Hospital (CHUV) in Lausanne (Switzerland) and Alexander Eggermont, Daniel den Hoed Cancer Center, Rotterdam (Netherlands), were also involved in developing this new treatment.