No. 34/ December 11, 2012

Professor Michael Glickman of Technion to Receive Bessel Research Award

Close Collaboration with the Max Delbrück Center

The chemist Professor Michael Glickman of Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, has been named to receive the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) for his outstanding research achievements. With the award, which is endowed with 45,000 euros, Professor Glickman will intensify his long-standing collaboration with the cell biologist Professor Thomas Sommer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, and he will also conduct research at the MDC. The award will be presented to him in the spring of next year.

No. 33/ December 7, 2012

MDC Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary and Plans Berlin Institute of Health

In a ceremony under the motto “Research and Responsibility” the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch celebrated its 20th anniversary on Friday, December 7, 2012. Germany’s Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan gave the keynote address in the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C). Also present at the event were Cornelia Yzer, the Berlin Senator for Economics, Technology and Research, Professor Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association of which the MDC is a member, and numerous representatives from politics and science.

No. 32/November 22, 2012

New Risk Factor Identified for High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Preeclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy and the major cause of death for both mother and child in Europe and the U.S. It affects about one in 20 pregnancies. The main symptoms are high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The cause of preeclampsia is still unclear. Dr. Florian Herse (Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Max Delbrück Center (MDC) and the Charité), Dr. Ralf Dechend (ECRC and Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch) and their collaborators have now identified an enzyme that is overexpressed in affected women and thus apparently contributes to development of the condition. In animal experiments, the researchers inhibited this enzyme and were able to ameliorate the disease process (10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.127340)*.

No. 31/November 6, 2012

Prof. Walter Rosenthal: “The Founding of the Berlin Institute of Health: A Unique Opportunity for the German Science Landscape”

“The founding of the Berlin Institute of Health, (BIH) is a unique opportunity for the German science landscape to restructure the collaboration between a non-university research institution and a university medical center in the field of basic and clinical research,” said Prof. Walter Rosenthal, chairman of the board and scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. Speaking at a press conference with Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit in the Charité on November 6, 2012, he went on to say: “For politicians, German reunification was something unique, just as it was for me as a citizen. Something like that only happens once in a lifetime. And here in the field of science another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has presented itself – to participate in the creation of an entirely new research structure. I am therefore delighted that we can be part of the founding of the BIH.

No. 30/November 2, 2012

New Findings on Gene Regulation and Bone Development


The patients have single short fingers (metacarpals) and toes (metatarsals) and can be restricted in growth due to a shortened skeleton. This hereditary disease is called brachydactyly type E (Greek for short fingers). Three years ago Dr. Philipp G. Maass from the research group of Professor Friedrich C. Luft at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the Charité Medical Faculty and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, has discovered an epigenetic mechanism, which, when dysregulated, causes this condition. Now, together with Dr. Sylvia Bähring (ECRC) he was able to show how this epigenetic regulator functions and influences the development of the skeleton and the extremities. Also, he shed light on a new principle of gene regulation (Journal of Clinical Investigation, doi: 10.1172/JCI65508)*.

No. 29/October 17, 2012

Researchers Elucidate Transport Pathway of Immune System Substances


To transport substances from the site of their production to their destination, the body needs a sophisticated transport and sorting system. Various receptors in and on the cells recognize certain molecules, pack them and ensure that they are transported to the right place. One of these receptors is Sortilin. It is present in the cells of the nervous system, the liver, and the immune system. Studies by Stefanie Herda and Dr. Armin Rehm (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch and Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin) and the immunologist Dr. Uta Höpken (MDC) have now shown that the receptor Sortilin plays an important role in the function of the immune system (Immunity, doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.07.012)*.

No. 28/October 2, 2012

14 New Biomarkers Identified for Type 2 Diabetes - Basis for Developing New Methods for Treatment and Prevention

Joint press release of the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine and the German Institute of Human Nutrition

Potsdam-Rehbruecke/Berlin – A research team led by Anna Floegel of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) and Tobias Pischon of the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) has identified 14 novel biomarkers for type 2 diabetes. They can serve as basis for developing new methods of treatment and prevention of this metabolic disease. The biomarkers can also be used to determine diabetes risk at a very early point in time. At the same time the markers enable insight into the complex mechanisms of this disease, which still have not been completely elucidated. (Diabetes, A. Floegel et al., 2012; DOI 10.2337/db12-0495)*.

No. 27/September 21, 2012

MDC Researchers Solve Puzzle of B-Cell Lymphoma Development

Germinal centers are sites in the organs of the lymphatic system, formed during the course of an immune response to infection, where B cells intensely proliferate and modify their DNA in order to produce antibodies specific for the pathogen. However, it is known that the vast majority of lymphomas derive from the B cells at the germinal centers. Now, Dr. Dinis Pedro Calado and Dr. Klaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have identified subgroups of B cells in germinal centers in which the proto-oncogene Myc, a critical regulator of cellular proliferation, is highly activated. They showed in addition that the Myc gene in these subpopulations is essential for the formation and maintenance of the germinal centers. Their findings also shed light on the origin of B-cell lymphomas derived from B cells at the germinal center reaction (Nature Immunology,*.

No. 26/September 18, 2012

New Findings on Protein Misfolding

Misfolded proteins can cause various neurodegenerative diseases such as spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) or Huntington’s disease, which are characterized by a progressive loss of neurons in the brain. Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, together with their colleagues of the Université Paris Diderot, Paris, France, have now identified 21 proteins that specifically bind to a protein called ataxin-1. Twelve of these proteins enhance the misfolding of ataxin-1 and thus promote the formation of harmful protein aggregate structures, whereas nine of them prevent the misfolding (PLoS Genetics, doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002897)*.

No. 25/ September 17, 2012

At the Right Place at the Right Time

New Insights into Muscle Stem Cells

Muscles have a pool of stem cells which provides a source for muscle growth and for regeneration of injured muscles. The stem cells must reside in special niches of the muscle for efficient growth and repair. The developmental biologists Dr. Dominique Bröhl and Prof. Carmen Birchmeier of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have elucidated how these stem cells colonize these niches. At the same time, they show that the stem cells weaken when, due to a mutation, they locate outside of the muscle fibers instead of in their stem cell niches (Developmental Cell,*.

No. 24/September 8, 2012

Tracing the Molecular Causes of Preeclampsia – a Life-threatening Disease for Mother and Child

70,000 Maternal Deaths a Year Worldwide

Preeclampsia is one of the most dangerous conditions for the expectant mother and the unborn child and is characterized by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine in the last trimester of pregnancy. The cause for this life-threatening disease has long remained elusive. Recently however, Dr. Ananth Karumanchi (Associate Professor of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center & Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) has identified a new molecular pathway that leads to preeclampsia in humans and thus creating new avenues for the development of a therapy, he reported at the 1st ECRC “Franz-Volhard” Symposium on September 8, 2012 at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch.

No. 22/September 7, 2012

US Researchers Discover Surprising New Roles for a Key Regulatory Enzyme of Blood Pressure

Many patients with hypertension are treated with ACE inhibitors. These drugs block the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) that regulates the salt and water balance of the body and raises blood pressure. Recent studies by a research team led by Professor Ken Bernstein (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA) have, however, significantly broadened the enzyme’s known task spectrum: The enzyme also plays a key role in blood formation, renal development and male fertility. In addition, the researchers showed that ACE has a hitherto unexpected influence on the immune response.

No. 21/September 7, 2012

Skin and Immune System Influence Salt Storage and Regulate Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is responsible for many cardiovascular diseases that are the leading cause of death in industrialized countries. High salt intake has long been considered a risk factor, but not every type of high blood pressure is associated with high salt intake. This has puzzled scientists for a long time. However, new findings by Professor Jens Titze (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA and the University of Erlangen) now point to previously unknown mechanisms. Accordingly, the skin and the immune system play an important role in the regulation of the sodium balance and hypertension, as he reported at the 1st ECRC “Franz-Volhard” Symposium of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin on September 7, 2012 in Berlin-Buch.

No. 23/ September 7, 2012

Treatment with Fungi Makes a Modern Violin Sound Like a Stradiavarius

A good violin depends not only on the expertise of the violin maker, but also on the quality of the wood that is used. The Swiss wood researcher Professor Francis W. M. R. Schwarze (Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St. Gallen, Switzerland) has succeeded in modifying the wood for a violin through treatment with special fungi. This treatment alters the acoustic properties of the instrument, making it sound indistinguishably similar to a Stradivarius. In his dinner talk at the 1st ECRC “Franz-Volhard” Symposium of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and Charité - Universitätsmedizin on September 7, 2012 in Berlin-Buch, Schwarze reported on his research and gave a preview of what his wood treatment method could mean, particularly for young violinists.

No. 20/September 7, 2012

When Clinicians and Researchers Look Outside the Box

1st ECRC “Franz-Volhard” Symposium at the MDC

What does the immune system have to do with blood pressure, and what does the hypertension enzyme ACE have to do with the immune system and cancer? These are questions researchers and clinicians from various disciplines will discuss at the 1st ECRC Franz Volhard Symposium in the Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C) in Berlin-Buch on September 7-8, 2012. The dinner speaker will be Professor Francis Schwarze, a materials scientist at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in St. Gallen, Switzerland). He has developed a method that makes a new violin sound almost like a Stradivarius.

August 28, 2012

Germany launches a 16M€ epigenome program in the frame of the International Human Epigenome Consortium IHEC

The German Ministry for Research and Education (BMBF) will support the German epigenome program initiative “DEEP” with a budget of 16M€ over 5 years. DEEP will be the official German contribution to the world wide operating International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC). The DEEP program will be coordinated by Prof. Dr. Jörn Walter, Saarland University. DEEP forms a network of 21 German expert groups for interdisciplinary epigenome research. DEEP will generate 70 reference epigenome maps of major primary cell/tissue types in normal and diseased states exclusively using NGS technologies. The scientific program focusses on metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as adipositas, fatty liver disease, bowel disease and rheumatic arthritis. DEEP combines strong experimental and bioinformatics expertise in epigenomics. The goal is to generate high quality reference epigenomes which will be deposited in public repositories coordinated by IHEC. The DEEP epigenome program will be flanked by functional model studies using mouse and human cell systems. This combined program will produce new functional insights in the molecular processes of complex systemic diseases.

No. 19/August 23, 2012

New Insights into Salt Transport in the Kidney

Sodium chloride, better known as salt, is vital for the organism, and the kidneys play a crucial role in the regulation of sodium balance. However, the underlying mechanisms of sodium balance are not yet completely understood. Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of Kiel have now deciphered the function of a gene in the kidney and have thus gained new insights into this complex regulation process (PNAS Early Edition, doi/10.1073/pnas.1203834109)*.

No. 18/August 13, 2012

New Key Element Discovered in Pathogenesis of Burkitt Lymphoma

MDC Scientists Develop Model for New Treatments

Burkitt lymphoma is a malignant, fast-growing tumor that originates from a subtype of white blood cells called B lymphocytes of the immune system and often affects internal organs and the central nervous system. Now Dr. Sandrine Sander and Professor Klaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have identified a key element that transforms the immune cells into malignant lymphoma cells. They developed a mouse model that closely resembles Burkitt lymphoma in humans and that may help to test new treatment strategies (Cancer Cell,*.

No. 17/ August 3, 2012

MDC Researchers Develop New Approach to Treat Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a life-threatening disease, characterized by a sudden, massive death of liver cells. Unfortunately, few treatment options exist, especially for advanced-stage liver failure. As a last resort a liver transplant may be the only remaining option. Now the physician Dr. Junfeng An of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Stefan Donath, a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, also of the MDC and Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch, have developed a new treatment approach based on a mouse model. In their current study published in (Hepatology, doi:101002/hep.25697; Vol. 56, No. 2, August 2012)*, the liver failure was reversed and the mice recovered completely. The researchers hope to soon be able to test their new approach in clinical trials with patients.


No. 15/July 31, 2012

Autoantibodies Damage Blood Vessels in the Brain – Important Factor in the Development of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The presence of specific autoantibodies of the immune system is associated with blood vessel damage in the brain. These findings were made by Marion Bimmler, a graduate engineer of medical laboratory diagnostics at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Peter Karczewski of the biotech company E.R.D.E.-AAK-Diagnostik GmbH in studies on a rat model. The researchers’ results suggest that autoimmune mechanisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis and progression of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia (PloS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041602)*.

No. 16/July 31, 2012

A Good Network – Important for Brain Activity Berlin researchers discover switchboard that connects nerve cells

Speech, sensory perception, thought formation, decision-making processes and movement are complex tasks that the brain only masters when individual nerve cells (neurons) are well connected. Berlin neuroscientists have now discovered a molecular switch that regulates this networking of nerve cells. The scientists from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have published their work in the journal Genes & Development (doi/10.1101/gad.191593.112)*.

No. 14/July 22, 2012

Neural Precursor Cells Induce Cell Death in Certain Brain Tumors – MDC and Charité Researchers Decipher the Mechanism of Action

Neural precursor cells (NPC) in the young brain suppress certain brain tumors such as high-grade gliomas, especially glioblastoma (GBM), which are among the most common and most aggressive tumors. Now researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have deciphered the underlying mechanism of action with which neural precursor cells protect the young brain against these tumors. They found that the NPC release substances that activate TRPV1 ion channels in the tumor cells and subsequently induce the tumor cells to undergo stress-induced cell-death. (Nature Medicine*.

June 28, 2012

MOLOGEN AG is cooperating with Max Delbrück Center and Charité in clinical study on skin cancer

Preparation for a phase I/II clinical study with MIDGE®-based gene therapy of malignant melanoma

MOLOGEN AG and the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Center for Molecular Medicine) have finalized a cooperation agreement. At the initiative and under the aegis of Dr. Peter M. Schlag, director of the Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCCC) and Dr. Wolfgang Walther of the ECRC, the safety and tolerance of a MIDGE®-based gene therapy are to be examined in the treatment of malignant melanoma as part of a clinical study planned at the Charité.

No. 13/June 28, 2012

Visit of the President of Singapore to the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine

The President of the Republic of Singapore, Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, visited the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch on the Berlin-Buch Campus on June 28, 2012. The MDC, which celebrates its 20th birthday this year, is renowned as one of the world’s best research institutions. Dr. Tan is visiting Germany on the invitation of the German President Joachim Gauck. He is accompanied by the Minister of State for Health, Ms. Dr. Amy Khor, the Ambassador of Singapore in Germany, Mr. Jacky Foo and two Members of Parliament, Ms. Foo Mee Har and Mr. Vikraim Nair.

No. 12/ May 3, 2012

Max Delbrück Center Wins EUR 1.8 Million Grant by the Helmholtz Association for a German-Israeli Research School

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch has long standing collaborative relations with two top Israeli universities: Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI). Now the MDC and its Israeli partners have succeeded in acquiring a grant of EUR 1.8 million over 6 years for the joint German-Israeli Helmholtz Research School “Frontiers in Cell Signaling & Gene Regulation” (SignGene). The grant is endowed by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association. Further partners are Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The Research School is an international PhD training program for young scientists, who will be working on joint German-Israeli projects. These enable closer collaboration between research groups from Berlin, Haifa and Jerusalem on current topics of modern molecular medicine. Helmholtz Research Schools provide doctoral training to 25 outstanding young doctoral students to conduct research on a specific topic.

No. 11/April 30, 2012

Gene Mutation Leads to Impairment of Two Senses: Touch and Hearing

People with good hearing also have a keen sense of touch; people with impaired hearing generally have an impaired sense of touch. Extensive data supporting this hypothesis was presented by Dr. Henning Frenzel and Professor Gary R. Lewin of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. The two researchers showed that both senses – hearing and touch – have a common genetic basis. In patients with Usher syndrome, a hereditary form of deafness accompanied by impaired vision, they discovered a gene mutation that is also causative for the patients’ impaired touch sensitivity. The examination was preceded by various studies, including studies with healthy identical and non-identical human twins (PloS Biology, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001318)*. In total, the researchers assessed sensory function in 518 volunteers.

No. 10/March 29, 2012

MDC-Researchers Elucidate Molecular Mechanism Contributing to Severe Forms of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy comprises a deterioration of the heart muscle that affects the organ's ability to efficiently pump blood through the body. Previously researchers have tied forms of the disease to the alternative splicing of titin, a giant protein that determines the structure and biomechanical properties of the heart, but the molecular mechanism remained unknown. Professor Michael Gotthardt and Professor Norbert Hübner of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, and colleagues have found that the RNA binding motif protein 20 (RBM20), a gene previously tied to hereditary cardiomyopathy, regulates titin splicing. Understanding this molecular mechanism behind heart function and failure, could lead to more efficient molecular diagnosis and therapies for this sometimes insidious disease (Nature Medicine,*

No. 9/March 13, 2012

Hypertension Specialist and Nephrologist, Friedrich C. Luft, Turns 70 years

Friedrich C. Luft MD, Director of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Charité Medical Faculty, Berlin, and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, celebrated his 70th birthday on March 4th, 2012. The nephrologist and hypertension specialist also heads his own research group at the MDC. The research activities of the clinician-researcher focus on the genetics of hypertension and hypertension-related target-organ damage.

No. 8/March 1, 2012

Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky of the MDC Honored with Leibniz Prize

“Has Set New Standards in Systems Biology”

Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin has been honored with Germany’s most important research award, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. The award ceremony took place on February 27, 2012 in Berlin. The 43-year-old scientist is the youngest of the eleven prizewinners, who come from different disciplines. The prize is endowed with 2.5 million euros. The German Research Foundation (DFG) awards this prize to exceptional scientists and academics for outstanding achievement in their respective fields of research.

No. 7/February 24, 2012

Accelerated Search for Active Agents to Treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Prof. Erich Wanker of the MDC to Receive Helmholtz Association Grant

Professor Erich Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and of the Excellence Cluster Neurocure is to receive EUR 675 000 in funding from the Helmholtz Association over the next two years. The grant shall be used to accelerate the search for active agents to treat diseases that are caused by protein misfolding. These include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The grant amount will be matched by the MDC, a member institution of the Helmholtz Association, which means that the total funding for the research project will be EUR 1.35 million.

No. 6/February 21, 2012

The Molecular Basis of Touch Sensation

MDC Researchers Identify New Function of a Well-Known Gene

A gene known to control lens development in mice and humans is also crucial for the development of neurons responsible for mechanosensory function, as neurobiologists of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have now discovered. They found that in mice in which they had removed the c-Maf gene in the nerve cells, touch sensation is impaired. This similarly applies to human carriers of a mutant c-Maf gene. People with such a mutation suffer already at a young age from cataracts, a clouding of the lens which typically affects the elderly. The patients, as demonstrated by Professor Carmen Birchmeier and Dr. Hagen Wende in collaboration with Professor Gary Lewin and Dr. Stefan Lechner, have difficulty holding objects such as a sheet of paper as a consequence of this mutation. (Scienceexpress, 16 February 2012 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1214314)*.

No. 5/February 17, 2012

New MDC Research Report Published

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has published its latest research report. In the 298-page book that is primarily written in English, all of the 67 research groups of the MDC and the clinical groups in the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the MDC and of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin give an overview of their work in 2010 – 2011. Research activities at the MDC focus on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, diseases of the nervous system and systems biology.

No. 4/February 16, 2012

MDC Researcher Zsuzsanna Izsvák Receives European Research Council (ERC)

Grant Worth EUR 1.94 Million

Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvák, research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, has been named recipient of a European Research Council (ERC Advanced) grant worth EUR 1.94 million for her research on “jumping genes” (transposons). With the aid of the ERC grant, in the next five years she will focus on investigating how mobile DNA elements (transposons) influence the pathogenesis of cancer and other diseases in the human genome. Altogether, nine MDC researchers, including Dr. Izsvák, have received grants of more than one million euros from the ERC.

No. 3/ February 14, 2012

MDC Researchers Reveal Molecular Mechanism Underlying Severe Anomalies of the Forebrain

Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have now identified and described a molecular mechanism underlying the most common malformation of the brain in humans. In holoprosencephaly (HPE), the forebrain (prosencephalon) is only incompletely formed. Here a binding site (receptor) for cholesterol plays a key role. If this receptor is defective, specific signals cannot be received, and the forebrain cannot separate into two hemispheres, as Dr. Annabel Christ, Professor Thomas Willnow and Dr. Annette Hammes have now shown in mice (Developmental Cell, DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2011.11.023)*.

No. 1/January 16, 2012

Rapid Diagnosis of Acute Kidney Injury – New Biomarkers Tested

How does a doctor determine whether or not an emergency-room patient has acute kidney injury? Using tests currently available in the hospital, this question is often difficult to answer. In many emergency cases, however, early diagnosis of the severity of the disease picture is crucial. A large multicenter study by clinicians of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Helios Hospital Berlin, and two hospitals in the U.S. has now shown that a urine test for proteins excreted by a damaged kidney helps to swiftly identify high-risk patients (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online, 9. January 2012)*.

No. 2/January 16, 2012

How Immune Cells Destroy Cancer Cells – MDC Researchers Elucidate Mechanism

Comparison of Adoptive T-Cell Therapy with Drug-Based Cancer Treatment

In the treatment of large tumors, how effective is adoptive T cell therapy in comparison to drug-based cancer treatment? To answer this question, Dr. Kathleen Anders and Professor Thomas Blankenstein of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and researchers of the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, USA designed and carried out a study comparing the two methods. Based on a mouse cancer model, the researchers elucidated the mechanisms of the two different treatments. The researchers showed that both forms of therapy are highly effective against large tumors. However, the T cells not only kill cancer cells – they additionally destroy the tumor blood vessel system, thus impeding the supply of nutrients to the tumor. Consequently, quasi as a side effect, “escapee” mutant tumor cells are eradicated that have become resistant to drug-based treatment and are responsible for tumor recurrence. The researchers hope that their insights in defining optimal conditions for T cell therapy may help improve future clinical trials and thus the treatment of cancer patients (Cancer Cell, doi10.1016/j.ccr.2011.10.019)*.