No. 42/December 19, 2008

Newly identified Gene Powerful Predictor of Colon Cancer Metastasis Low Gene Activity – higher Survival Rate

Cancer Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité – Universitäts Medizin Berlin (Germany) have identified a gene which enables them to predict for the first time with high probability if colon cancer is going to metastasize. Assistant Professor Dr. Ulrike Stein, Professor Peter M. Schlag, and Professor Walter Birchmeier were able to demonstrate that the gene MACC1 (Metastasis-Associated in Colon Cancer 1) not only promotes tumor growth but also the development of metastasis.When MACC1 gene activity is low, the life expectancy of patients with colon cancer is longer in comparison to patients with high MACC1 levels. (Nature Medicine, doi: 10.1038/nm.1889)*.

No. 41/December 11, 2008

Heart regenerates after Infarction – First trials with mice

Up until today scientists assumed that the adult heart is unable to regenerate. Now, researchers and cardiologists from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany) have been able to show that this dogma no longer holds true. Dr. Laura Zelarayán and Assistant Professor Dr. Martin W. Bergmann were able to show that the body`s own heart muscle stem cells do generate new tissue and improve the pumping function of the heart considerably in an adult organism, when they suppress the activity of a gene regulator known as beta-catenin in the nucleus of the heart cells. (PNAS, online December 10, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808393105)*.

No. 40/December 5, 2008

Supposed Help Against Tumors – How Tumor Cells Use the Body's Protection

Glioblastoma is one of the most common but also most aggressive brain tumors, almost invariably leading to death in a short time. It consists of different cell types and their precursors, complicating successful treatment. To fight the driving force of the tumor – the tumor stem cells – scientists have been trying to initiate apoptosis in these cells. However, Dr. Ana Martin-Villalba (German Cancer Research Center, DKFZ, Heidelberg, Germany) suspects that the activated apoptosis program accelerates the progress of the disease. “The tumor growth declines when apoptosis is blocked,” she reported at the conference “Brain Tumor 2008” at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany.

Invitation

„Brain Tumor 2008“

Thursday, December 4th – Friday, December 5th, 2008

Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C)

Robert-Rössle-Str. 10, 13125 Berlin , Germany

No. 38/November 24, 2008

Sofja Kovalevskaja Award for Dr. Jan-Erik Siemens: Scientist Returns from the USA to Germany

The biochemist and neurobiologist Dr. Jan-Erik Siemens is one of eight junior researchers to receive this year’s Sofja Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH). The award stipend will enable the researcher to return to Germany next year after four years as postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, in order to establish a research group at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. The award was presented to the young scientists on Tuesday, November 25, 2008, in Berlin.

No. 37/November 14, 2008

“Jet Injection” for Gene Therapy – First Clinical Trial Evaluates Feasibility

For the first time in a clinical study, researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, have tested a new technology enabling them to transfer genetic material directly into a tumor by means of high pressure. As Assistant Professors Wolfgang Walther, together with Professor Peter M. Schlag report in Clinical Cancer Research (Vol. 14, Nr. 22, pp. 7545-7553)*, their results show that jet injection delivers genes into the tumor tissue safely and in a targeted manner. The application was well tolerated by all 17 patients enrolled in this study. No adverse events were experienced.

No. 36/November 13, 2008

US Immunologist William E. Paul Receives the Max Delbrück Medal

The American immunologist Dr. William E. Paul has received the Max Delbrück Medal in Berlin. The jury honored the researcher for his work on a key regulator of the immune system, interleukin 4 (IL-4). Dr. Paul works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Professor Andreas Radbruch, scientific director of the German Rheuma Research Center Berlin, held the laudatory address.

No. 35/October 22, 2008

Donor Cells for Immune Therapy

In the future, the bone marrow transfer to patients with leukaemia could be more secure. Experiments with mice have shown already that certain cells of the immune system (regulatory T cells or Tregs) can suppress the dangerous side effects resulting from the treatment. Such cells control aggressive immune cells and, thus, unwanted immune reactions by the graft can be avoided. However, to date, there were no adequate techniques available to securely isolate the regulatory T cells. Now, Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Dr. Kirsten Falk, and Dr. Olaf Rötzschke of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany and their colleagues of the ‘Fondazione Santa Lucia’ in Rome, Italy have developed a simple method to specifically isolate these cells from human blood. (Blood, doi 10 1182/blood-2008-04-150524)*

No. 34/ October 15, 2008

Professor Gary Richard Lewin becomes EMBO-Member

Neurobiologist and pain researcher Professor Gary Richard Lewin from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has been elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). He is one of 59 life scientists from Europe and around the world who were recognised by EMBO for their excellence in research this year. Currently EMBO has 1360 members.

 

No. 33/ October 15, 2008

Repair in the Developing Heart

If the heart becomes diseased during its embryonic/fetal development, it can regenerate itself to such an extent that it is fully functional by birth, provided some of the heart cells remain healthy. Dr. Jörg-Detlef Drenckhahn of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch made this discovery together with colleagues from Australia. They were able to demonstrate in female mice that the healthy cells of the heart divide more frequently and thus displace the damaged tissue. “Hopefully, our results will lead to new therapies in the future,” Dr. Drenckhahn said. “With the right signals, a heart that has been damaged – for example through infarction – might be stimulated to heal itself.” (Developmental Cell, 15, 521-533, October 14, 2008)*.

No. 32/October 8, 2008

Hodgkin Lymphoma – New Characteristics Discovered

Cytokines Help Tumor Cells Evade the Immune System

Researchers are still discovering new characteristics of Hodgkin lymphoma, a common form of cancer of the lymphatic system. The malignant cells are derived from white blood cells (B cells), but have lost a considerable part of the B cell-specific gene expression pattern. The phenotype and the characteristics of Hodgkin lymphoma cells are therefore unique. Björn Lamprecht and Dr. Stephan Mathas (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany) have demonstrated the production of interleukin 21 (IL-21) in the tumor cells of Hodgkin lymphoma. IL-21, a signaling molecule (cytokine) of the immune system, promotes the growth of cancer cells and helps them evade immune system detection (Blood*, Vol. 112. N0. 8, 2008, 3339-3347).

No. 31/September 18, 2008

New Mechanism for Cardiac Arrhythmia discovered

 

It has long been thought that virus infections can cause cardiac arrhythmia. But why has not been understood. Ulrike Lisewski, Dr. Yu Shi, Michael Radke and Professor Michael Gotthardt of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have now discovered the molecular mechanism. The researchers demonstrated that the receptor which the virus uses to infect heart cells is normally necessary for regular heart beat in mice. Likewise, when the receptor is absent or non-functioning, arrhythmia occurs. They assume that both the virus infection and the autoimmune disease can block the receptor which, in turn, disrupts the heart’s normal rhythm. The study has now been published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (10.1084/jem.20510iti3).

 

No. 30/September 10, 2008

Erwin Schrödinger Prize 2008 Goes to Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center First Map Showing Human Protein Interactions

A Berlin research team led by Professor Erich E. Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has been awarded this year’s Erwin Schrödinger Prize for creating a unique “connection scheme” showing for the first time how thousands of human proteins – the building blocks and machines of life – interact with each other. The prize, endowed with 50, 000 euros, was awarded by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, of which the MDC is a member, at its General Assembly on September 11, 2008. Along with Professor Wanker*, the prizewinners are Dr. Ulrich Stelzl (now at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin), Christian Hänig, Dipl.-Ing. (MDC), Gautam Chaurasia, M.Sc. (Humboldt University Berlin and MDC), and Dr. Matthias Futschik (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin). Interactions between proteins are of great interest for understanding disease mechanisms and for developing new drugs. Moreover, with their help, researchers can detect disease-relevant genes.

No. 29/August 29, 2008

Erwin Schrödinger Prize 2008 Goes to the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin - First Map Showing Human Protein Interactions

A Berlin research team led by Professor Erich E. Wanker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has been awarded this year’s Erwin Schrödinger Prize for creating a unique “connection scheme” showing for the first time how thousands of human proteins – the building blocks and machines of life – interact with each other. The prize, endowed with 50 000 euros, will be awarded by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, of which the MDC is a member, at its General Assembly on September 11, 2008. Along with Professor Wanker*, the prizewinners are Dr. Ulrich Stelzl (now at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin), Christian Hänig, Dipl.-Ing. (MDC), Gautam Chaurasia, M.Sc. (Humboldt University Berlin and MDC), and Dr. Matthias Futschik (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin). Interactions between proteins are of great interest for understanding disease mechanisms and for developing new drugs. Moreover, with their help, researchers can detect disease-relevant genes.

Nr. 28/August 11, 2008

Cornelia Lanz – New Administrative Director of the MDC

As of August 1, 2008 Cornelia Lanz is the new Administrative Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, an institution of the Helmholtz Association. She comes to her new position from Lübeck University of Applied Sciences, where she was chancellor for the last four years until July 31, 2008. At the MDC she succeeds Dr. Stefan Schwartze, who was appointed chancellor of the University of Münster last spring.

No. 27/August 6, 2008

New Insights into the Development of Epithelial Cells MDC Researchers Discover More Diversity than Expected

Epithelial cells cover all internal and external surfaces of the body. They have an upper and a lower side, which have different functions. Until now, scientists assumed that these two poles develop in all epithelial cells in the same manner – irrespective of whether they are located in the heart, in the retina, or in the nervous system. Now, Dr. Nana Bit-Avragim, Dr. Nicole Hellwig, and Dr. Salim Abdelilah-Seyfried have shown that, depending on the tissue, a different variation of a complex consisting of five core proteins is active and orientates the epithelial cells. The results of the MDC scientists have now been published in the Journal of Cell Science (2008, Vol. 121, pp. 2503-2510)*.

No. 26/July 29, 2008

MicroRNAs Tune Protein Synthesis

Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have generated new findings on how microRNAs (miRNA) regulate protein expression. Two teams lead by Matthias Selbach (Proteomics) and Nikolaus Rajewsky (Systems Biology) have shown that a single miRNA can directly regulate synthesis of hundreds of different proteins. In this way, miRNAs can program the way human cells act, they report in the latest issue of the journal Nature (doi:10.1038/nature07228)*.

No. 25/July 4, 2008

Curt Meyer Memorial Prize for Dr. Stephan Mathas and Dr. Martin Janz - Camouflage Mechanism of Cancer Cells in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Decoded

Cancer researchers Dr. Martin Janz and Dr. Stephan Mathas of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Germany, have been honored with the Curt Meyer Memorial Prize for their research on Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They received the prize, worth 10,000 euros, on July 4, 2008 in Berlin for their findings published in Nature Immunology* from Professor Peter Schlag, president of the Berlin Cancer Society (Charité, MDC). Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a common form of cancer of the lymphatic system, originates from white blood cells (B cells), which alter their phenotype completely and thus lose all characteristics of a B cell. Dr. Janz and Dr. Mathas succeeded in decoding the camouflage mechanisms of B cells. Based on these findings, cancer researchers hope that therapy strategies can be developed that will lead to an inhibition of cell growth or to apoptosis of the Hodgkin cells.

No. 24/June 13, 2008

Body Clocks Dictate the Beat of Life

Body clocks determine whether people are early birds or late risers, “homebodies” or “party animals”. As Professor Hanspeter Herzel (Institute for Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany) now reported at the international conference “Computational & Experimental Molecular Biology” in Berlin, Germany, these biological watches not only regulate the sleep-wake cycle, but also blood pressure and blood temperature. “They are controlled by a master clock which consists of 20,000 neurons in the brain,” Professor Herzel illuminated, “where they operate together to adapt us to the changing demands of day and night.”

Invitation

The Sixth Annual International Conference on

Transposition and Animal Biotechnology

Thursday, June 19th through Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C)

No. 22/June 4, 2008

Mutations Induce Severe Cardiomyopathy

Mutations in three genes that are important for heart contraction can induce left ventricular noncompaction (LVNC), a special form of cardiomyopathy. This was a key finding from current research conducted by Dr. Sabine Klaassen, Susanne Probst, and Prof. Ludwig Thierfelder of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Prof. Erwin Oechslin (Adult Congenital Cardiac Centre, Toronto, Canada) and Prof. Rolf Jenni (Cardiovascular Center, Zürich, Switzerland). In LVNC, the myocardial tissue of the left ventricle takes on a sponge-like appearance and protrudes into the ventricle which can greatly impair the pumping performance of the heart. Of the 63 LVNC patients studied, the scientists found 11 patients (17 percent) with several myocardial gene mutations. The researchers suspect that these genetic mutations can trigger severe cardiomyopathy. In the future, genetic testing can determine whether individual family members of the affected patients also carry this mutation and are, thus, predisposed to LVNC. The results of the study have just been published in the journal Circulation (2008, Vol. 117, pp. 2893-2901)*.

No. 21/May 30, 2008

Green Tea Prevents Deathly Plaque Formation in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer`s – First Results in the Test Tube and with Cell Models

The substance EGCG (Epigallocatechin-3-gallate) from green tea can redirect the deadly process which leads to the accumulation of protein aggregates in Parkinson`s and Alzheimer`s disease. EGCG modulates a cascade of protein misfolding in such a way that the formation of deadly plaques is interrupted, and harmless protein structures emerge instead. Researchers of the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, a national research laboratory of the Helmholtz Association in Germany have made this discovery in the test tube and in cell models. The research of Dr. Dagmar Ehrnhoefer and Dr. Jan Bieschke of Professor Erich Wanker`s laboratory in Berlin-Buch has now been published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology*(http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nsmb.1437).

No. 20/May 28, 2008

Helmholtz Association Pledges 1.8 Million for Second MDC Research School

Improvement of Doctoral Program in Cardiovascular Research

The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres has pledged 1.8 million euros over the next six years to the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch (MDC) to improve its doctoral program in the research field of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. With these funds, the MDC will establish the “Helmholtz International Research School in Translational Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine – TransCard”. The primary goal of this doctoral program is to train researchers to bridge the gap between basic and clinical research. Professor Michael Gotthardt and Dr. Salim Seyfried (both MDC) have been appointed spokespersons for the new Helmholtz International Research School. The partners of the new school are the Free University and Humboldt University in Berlin.

No. 19/May 27, 2008

“Berlin Memorial Plaque” for American Geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller

The American geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate Hermann Joseph Muller (1890 – 1967) was commemorated today with a “Berlin Memorial Plaque” in a dedication ceremony at Campus Berlin-Buch, Germany. The plaque was unveiled by his daughter, Professor Emerita Helen Juliette Muller, University of New Mexico (USA), Professor Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and Professor Walter Birchmeier, scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. The plaque was installed at the former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Brain Research, now named the Oskar und Cécile Vogt Building. From November 1932 until September 1933 Hermann Joseph Muller worked there as visiting scientist with the Russian geneticist Nikolai Timoféeff-Ressovsky. The importance of their research collaboration and – building on that – with the young Max Delbrück for the development of genetics is the subject of a book published in German and English for this occasion by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC): “Genetiker in Berlin-Buch/Geneticists in Berlin-Buch”.

No. 18/Monday, May 26, 2008

Cécilie Vogt Clinic for Neurology Opens in Berlin-Buch

The Cécilie Vogt Clinic for Neurology, a joint undertaking of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Helios-Klinikum Berlin-Buch and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, opened officially on Monday, May 26, 2008. Professor Frauke Zipp is scientific director of the clinic. In conjunction with this position, she holds a professorship in molecular neurology at the Charité. Professor Zipp is also a research group leader at the MDC.

No. 17/May 19, 2008

Researchers Identify Specific Targets for Pain Therapy

Professor Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer: “The challenge is now for pharmaceutical companies”

 

Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland have identified specific targets for the therapy of patients suffering from chronic pain. In experiments using mice, they succeeded in specifically blocking the relay of pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain. As a result, they were able to restore the body’s pain filter in the spinal cord, which ensures that not every sensation, such as light touch, is registered as pain. Professor Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer who works at the University of Zurich and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) reported about these findings on May 16, 2008 at an international conference on the “Development and function of somatosensation and pain” organized by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. The challenge is now for pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that specifically target these receptors in humans”, he said.

No. 16/May 15, 2008

Success by Learning – Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey by its Shape

 

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) is one of the world’s smallest mammals. It is about four centimetres long and weighs merely two grams. Being a nocturnal animal, it hunts predominantly with its sense of touch. Professor Michael Brecht (Bernstein Center for Computional Neuroscience, Berlin) now reported on the particularities of its hunting behaviour at the international conference “Development and function of somatosensation and pain” at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. “As quick as a flash, the Etruscan shrew scans its prey and adapts, when necessary, its hunting strategy,” explained Brecht in his talk. “Thus, no prey escapes.”

No. 15/May 14, 2008

Pain Free without Numbness – Substance Combination with Chili Peppers

 

A dentist's injection typically causes numbness for several hours. This experience could soon be history. Now, Clifford Woolf, professor at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA, and his colleagues have developed a combination of two agents which is able to specifically block pain without producing numbness or motor paralysis. The substance is composed of a normally inactive derivative of the local anesthetic lidocaine, called QX314, and capsaicin, the pain-producing substance in chili peppers. Capsaicin works by opening channels present only in pain fibers to allow the QX314 only into these cells, where it blocks their function, Woolf explained in the keynote lecture “Using Pain to Block Pain” at the international conference “Development and function of somatosensation and pain” of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. “This is the first example of using the body’s own cellular channels as a drug delivery system, targeting treatment only at pain fibers,” he pointed out.

No. 14/May 7, 2008

The Wnt Signaling Pathway – A Retrospective Look at 25 Years of Research

- How Misregulation of Signaling Pathways Causes Disease

 

Over the past years, biologists have gained ever deeper insights into the biochemical and molecular networks regulating the development of living beings, from the fertilized egg to complete organisms containing billions of cells and different organs. Interestingly, only a handful of signaling pathways control this complex development. These pathways act in synergy with each other to prevent maldevelopment or tumor formation. One of the most thoroughly researched signaling pathways is the Wnt signaling pathway, which was first characterized 25 years ago. Walter Birchmeier, a cell biologist of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch who has done important research in this field, and Alexandra Klaus, a PhD student from his research group, have written an article describing the major milestones that have substantially contributed to scientists’ understanding of the Wnt signaling system. Their review has now been published in the current issue of Nature Reviews Cancer (Vol. 8, Nr. 5, pp. 387 – 398)*.

No. 13/May 5, 2008

Berlin to Get Institute for Systems Biology – Joint Project of the Max Delbrück Center and the Charité – New Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has allocated around 7.5 million euros over the next three years to establish an institute for medical systems biology in Berlin, Germany. It is a joint project of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, and the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology will be under the aegis of the MDC with Nikolaus Rajewsky as director. The institute is one of six pilot projects of the new BMBF funding program “Advanced Research and Innovation in the New States”. Germany’s Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan presented the 45 million euro program to the public at an “innovation conference” in Berlin.

No. 12/April 29, 2008

New Tool Scans the Genome for Disease-relevant Variations

Investigating the genetic background of major diseases has now become easier. As part of a European-Japanese Consortium (STAR), Dr. Kathrin Saar and Prof. Norbert Hübner from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have constructed a genome map with more than 300 different rat strains. The researchers are convinced that this new tool can help understand the development of cardiovascular diseases or diabetes in laboratory rats as well as in humans. The paper of the STAR consortium has been published online in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics* (Vol. 40, No. 5, pp. 560 – 566, 2008).

No. 11/April 29, 2008

The Genetic Background of Heart Failure and the Role of Hypertension: A Close Cooperation between Basic Researchers and Clinicians in Berlin-Buch

Researchers from Berlin, Germany have identified variations in a gene, which contributes to heart failure in the presence of hypertension. The gene, Ephx2, encodes an enzyme (soluble epoxide hydrolase) that normally degrades specific epoxides. In this case, the epoxides can be cardioprotective in the setting of heart failure but not necessarily relevant for healthy individuals. In persons with heart failure, a low Ephx2 activity would not break down the epoxides and as a result, the heart could be protected from further damage. However, in persons with both heart failure and an altered Ephx2 gene resulting in a hyperactive soluble epoxide hydrolase, the epoxides would be degraded. This state-of-affairs would worsen the heart failure condition. The Ephx2 gene was identified by the physicians Dr. Jan Monti, Prof. Friedrich Luft (both Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin/Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch), and the genome researcher Prof. Norbert Hübner (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), as well as by their collaborators. The results were published online in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics (Vol. 40, No. 5, pp. 529 - 537, 2008)*. The scientists hope that their results might improve the diagnosis and therapy for heart failure.

 

No. 10/April 8, 2008

„Exciting new approach“ for identifying microRNAs – PhD student at MDC develops new computer program

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are genes which produce important elements that regulate a wide variety of processes in plants, animals and humans. MiRNAs are considered to be promising diagnostic and therapeutic candidates for the treatment of human diseases. Worldwide, scientists are seeking to develop methods to detect which miRNAs are active in tissue samples or to identify novel miRNA genes. To date, researchers have identified more than 600 human miRNAs, each of which regulates the activity of several hundred proteins, the building and operating materials of life. Marc Friedländer, a PhD student in the laboratory of  Nikolaus Rajewsky at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, has now developed a software package named miRDeep. Using it, researchers can detect not only which miRNAs are active in a tissue sample, but can also discover previously unknown miRNAs. MiRDeep is based on the analysis of modern high-throughput sequencing technologies and modeling the activity of a key enzyme in the miRNA pathway. The paper, written in collaboration with Wei Chen of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, has been published in Nature Biotechnology* online (Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 407 – 415, 008). It also reports more than 250 novel or unannotated miRNA genes, 15 of these are human, which Friedländer and his colleagues were able to identify.

No. 9/March 28, 2008

The Immune System and Cancer

New Insights into a Not Always Healthy Interplay

 

For a long time, scientists believed that the immune system acted to fight cancer development. However, recent findings demonstrate that the immune system also acts to promote cancer progression. At the International conference “Invasion and Metastasis” held at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin, Dr. David DeNardo from the laboratory of Professor Lisa Coussens from the University of California, San Francisco, USA reported on how tumours use immune cells to grow faster and disseminate in the body.

No. 8/March 27, 2008

Mobile Cancer Stem Cells – The Real Bad Guy?

New Model of Metastasis Formation Presented in Berlin

Mobile cancer stem cells can form metastases in colon cancer and other malignant tumours. Professor Thomas Brabletz from the University Hospital Freiburg, Germany, has developed a new model, which he presented at the International Conference “Invasion and Metastasis” held at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin. “Therefore, mobile cancer stem cells are the most dangerous cells for cancer patients,” he said. Until recently researchers assumed that every single tumour cell could form metastases.

No. 7/March 27, 2008

Robert Weinberg: Research Can Begin to Rationalize Complex Process of the Development of Metastases - Cancer Cells Exploit Small Number of Master Control Genes

“The process of tumor metastasis has until recently been one of bewildering complexity. However, one can now begin to rationalize this complex process in terms of a relatively small number of master control genes which normally operate during normal development and which are appropriated and exploited by cancer cells”, Dr. Robert Weinberg, a pioneer in cancer research from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, USA, said in Berlin.

No. 6/March 14, 2008

MDC Researchers Reconstruct Jumping Gene

New Tool for Elucidating the Function of Genes

They can be found in plants, animals and even in humans – inactive remains of jumping genes, transposons. Researchers are striving to develop active transposons from these remains, using them as tools to decode gene function. At the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, researchers have now succeeded in reconstructing the first active transposon of the Harbinger transposon superfamily. In the laboratory, the artificial transposon developed by Dr. Ludivine Sinzelle, Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvák, and Dr. Zoltán Ivics also shows cut-and-paste transposition in human cells and promises to serve as a useful experimental system for investigating human gene function. The findings of the MDC researchers have just been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)*.

No. 5/March 12, 2008

New Regulation Mechanism Controls Survival of Immune Cells and Influences the Diversity of Antibodies

Cooperation of the Laboratories of Klaus and Nikolaus Rajewsky at Harvard Medical School and the MDC

B cells are important elements of the immune system. In the course of an infection, they produce antibodies that systematically fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. The power of these cells depends on the diversity of their antibodies. Scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have now discovered a new mechanism which controls the development of these immune cells and influences the arsenal of antibody variants. The results of Sergej Koralov, Stefan Muljo, Klaus Rajewsky (all of them at Harvard), Azra Krek, Nikolaus Rajewsky (both MDC) and colleagues have been published in the current issue of the journal Cell* (Vol. 132, Nr. 5, pp. 860-874, 2008).

Invitation

International Conference

“Invasion and Metastasis”

Wednesday, March 26th till Saturday, March 29th

Max Delbrück Communications Center (MDC.C)

No. 3/ February 15, 2008

New MDC Research Report Published

Prof. Birchmeier: “Abundant Experience in Bringing Together Basic Research and Medicine”

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch has published its latest research report. Spanning 236 pages, the 65 research groups of the MDC give an overview of their work in 2006 – 2007. “The thrust of work at the MDC,” as Professor Walter Birchmeier, MDC scientific director, wrote in his foreword, “remains to carry out high-quality research into the mechanisms that underlie cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions.” The Research Report provides survey articles in German and English of the main research activities of the MDC. The reports of the individual research groups, intended primarily for scientists, are in English.

No. 2/February 4, 2008

How the Heart Takes Form:

MDC Researchers Describe Early Heart Development in Vertebrates

For the first time, scientists have described the transition of the flat, disc-shaped heart field into the primary linear heart tube. The investigations on zebrafish embryos were made by Stefan Rohr and Cécile Otten, members of the research group of Dr. Salim Abdelilah-Seyfried of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. The research results of the developmental biologists have just been published in the online edition of Circulation Research*.

No. 1/January 29, 2008

Living without Pain – The African Naked Mole-Rat

Acid and Chili Peppers Produce no Pain – Researchers attribute Pain Insensitivity to Selection Pressure Arising from an Extreme Habitat

The African naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is one of the most unusual mammals. It is only 15 centimeters long, lives in subterranean colonies of up to 300 individuals in arid areas in central East Africa, and it feels no pain. Professor Gary R. Lewin from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, and Professor Thomas J. Park from the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, took a closer look at this strange rodent. They could show, that the animal is absolutely insensitive to acid (PloS Biology, Vol. 6, Issue 1, January 29, 2008, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060013). “This is completely unique in vertebrates”, says Professor Lewin. Also, it lost its sensitivity to capsaicin, the hot substance in chilli peppers which normally causes a burning sensation when applied to the skin. The researchers conclude that the extreme native habitat of the African naked mole-rat may have triggered this unique pain insensitivity.