Medical Systems Biology

Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (MDC-BIMSB)


Feb 2023

Cracking the chromatin code

Chromatin factors are involved in regulating gene expression. If they do not function properly, this can result in neurological impairments. Ana Pombo and Alexander Kukalev are now receiving almost €400,000 from the DFG for a research project that aims to shed more light on how these factors work.

Jan 2023

AI analysis of cancer mutations may improve therapy

Combining single-cell data with a self-learning algorithm reveals how structural changes in chromosomes can trigger cancer. This new method could pave the way for personalized cancer treatments, writes a team led by Ashley Sanders in “Nature Biotechnology”.


Decoding cellular zipcodes

Researchers suspect that neurodegenerative diseases occur when messenger RNA (mRNA) goes astray in the neuron. With a new method, Marina Chekulaeva is able to identify “zipcodes” that assign a destination to mRNAs. She has now presented her method in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


Paul Ehrlich Foundation honors Leif S. Ludwig

Leif S. Ludwig, a researcher at the Max Delbrück Center and the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH), will receive the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Young Investigator Award 2023 for a new method to analyze the formation of blood cells, as the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation announced today.


Nov 2022

What octopus and human brains have in common

Cephalopods like octopuses, squids and cuttlefish are highly intelligent animals with complex nervous systems. In “Science Advances”, a team led by Nikolaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center has now shown that their evolution is linked to a dramatic expansion of their microRNA repertoire.

ERC Starting Grants for Berlin scientists

They have their sights set on serious diseases: Gabriele G. Schiattarella analyzes mechanisms of heart failure, Simon Haas wants to improve immunotherapies for leukemia and Michael Sigal would like to prevent gastrointestinal diseases. Now, the ERC is awarding the researchers with a Starting Grant.


Poor delivery service in the brain

With funding from the Alzheimer’s Association, Melissa Birol hopes to uncover the molecular causes of age-related dementia. Her hypothesis is that a fatal interaction of tau and ApoE proteins prevents neurons from being supplied with sufficient fat, triggering their death.

Oct 2022

Searching the sewers for viruses

Algorithms developed at the Max Delbrück Center are able to quickly detect new SARS-CoV-2 variants in wastewater. But that’s not all: the tool, which Altuna Akalin and his colleagues have now presented in “Science of the Total Environment”, can also find other pathogens. →

Key processes in acute kidney injury revealed

Peering into single cells reveals new insights into acute kidney injury. Reporting in “Genome Medicine” and “Kidney International”, research teams at BIMSB, Charité and MHH describe novel gene expression patterns that may lead to new therapeutic approaches and strategies for biomarker discovery. →

September 2022

Heisenberg Program accepts RNA biologist

Errors in cellular RNA metabolism are dangerous for nerve cells. For her work in this area, Marina Chekulaeva has now been accepted into the DFG Heisenberg program. →

August 2022

Award for stem cell scientist Simon Haas

Simon Haas receives the Young Investigator Award 2022 of the German Stem Cell Network (GSCN). Haas leads the research group Systemic Hematology, Stem Cells & Precision Medicine in the joint research focus "Single Cell Approaches for Personalized Medicine" of BIH, Charité and MDC. →

CRISPR-based rapid tests for heart attacks & cancer

A CRISPR-based rapid test called CrisprZyme could help general practitioners to diagnose heart attacks and distinguish between different types of prostate cancer. They do not even need a lab, as an international team of scientists – including Michael Kaminski – reports in "Nature Nanotechnology". →

July 2022

In-depth profiling of single cells

Single-cell analyses provide a wealth of molecular and genetic information. A team led by MDC researcher Uwe Ohler is using machine learning to combine these data and produce meaningful profiles of the cells. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is now funding the project. →

How the zebrafish repairs a broken heart

An MDC research team led by Jan Philipp Junker and Daniela Panáková has found that zebrafish can regenerate heart tissue after injury. Connective tissue cells play an important role in the process by temporarily entering an activated state, as the team reports in “Nature Genetics”. →

Influential barriers

The way the genome is folded regulates gene activation, so it can’t be left to chance. Molecular boundaries across the genome keep things in order. A team led by MDC researcher Darío Lupiáñez has discovered how these boundaries work. Their findings, published in Nature Genetics, could help us to better understand developmental diseases or cancer. →

June 2022

Honing young talent for single-cell medicine

This spring, the MDC, BIH and Charité hosted the first e:Med Summer School on single-cell- based systems medicine, with the goal of ensuring that basic findings in the field are translated into clinical practice. The event welcomed 20 young biomedical researchers, data scientists and clinicians from around the world. →

AI identifies cancer cells

How do cancer cells differ from healthy cells? A new machine learning algorithm called “ikarus” knows the answer, reports a team led by MDC bioinformatician Altuna Akalin in the journal "Genome Biology". The AI program has found a gene signature characteristic of tumors. →

May 2022

How blood stem cells stay intact for a lifetime

Stem cells in the bone marrow form the cells of the blood throughout life. In the process, mistakes can occur leading to cancer. Together with a research team from Berlin, Heidelberg and Boston, Simon Haas describes in "Cell Stem Cell" a mechanism that allows the body to protect itself from this risk. →

April 2022

The RNA profiler

In order to put their genetic blueprints into action, human cells need RNA-binding proteins. Markus Landthaler observes these proteins while they interact with RNA – in order to understand how they work, and how to make use of them. →

COVID-19 therapy: Better in combination than alone

More and more drugs are available for the treatment of COVID-19. Researchers from Charité, FU and MDC in Berlin have investigated the mechanisms of action of antiviral and anti-inflammatory substances. In the journal "Molecular Therapy" they describe that a combination of both works best. →

Pioneers with broad horizons: Data scientists at HEIBRiDS

Demand is high for young scientists who are well versed in the data sciences as well as in another discipline. At the Helmholtz graduate school HEIBRiDS in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, eleven institutions have teamed up to train scientists. The range of subjects they cover spans everything from genetic research to astronomy. →

March 2022

Two ERC Consolidator Grants go to MDC researchers

How can a heart heal itself? And what determines the sex of a living organism? The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Consolidator Grants to Dr. Jan Philipp Junker and Dr. Darío Lupiáñez to tackle these questions. Each researcher will receive €2 million over five years for their research. →

An ornamental fish with superpowers

Zebrafish have played an important role in basic biomedical research for over 50 years, including research into the causes of congenital heart defects and the consequences of heart attacks. For researchers working with these fish, it's important to respect animal welfare and find ways of improving it. →

How SARS-CoV-2 takes over the cell's protein factory

The question of how the Covid virus takes over host cells and suppresses the body's defences has been the subject of much debate. Now a research team led by Marina Chekulaeva at the MDC has pinpointed the crucial mechanism involved. Their results have been published in the journal “RNA”. →

The fly atlas

In the Fly Cell Atlas, a project initiated by a team of scientists including Robert Zinzen, researchers are mapping in detail the cells of the fly Drosophila. They have now presented a comprehensive single-cell atlas of the animal, consisting of more than 250 cell types, in the journal Science. →

February 2022

Watching aggressive breast cancer as it grows

EMBO fellow Ilan Theurillat investigates how the most lethal subtype of breast cancer develops. He is driven by many unanswered questions such as: Why do fibroblasts wrap themselves around the triple negative tumor like a shield? Can such a tumor form from a single cancer cell? →

New subtype of Omicron on the rise

Similar to the recent situation in Denmark, a new subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2 is now spreading in Berlin. This was revealed by an analysis of wastewater samples at the MDC in cooperation with the Berliner Wasserbetriebe and the Berlin lab of the amedes Group. The rapid emergence of BA.2 could prolong the current wave of COVID-19 infection. →

Genomic regulatory map of the zebrafish

The zebrafish is an important model organism for studying things like genetic diseases. A regulatory map of its genome has been successfully created using high-throughput experiments and AI methods, a team led by Uwe Ohler now reports in "Cell Genomics" and "Nature Machine Intelligence". →

January 2022

Open Positions

for Independent Junior Group Leader (f/m/d) at BIMSB →

more info HERE!

ERC awards for Dr. Stefanie Grosswendt

Both researchers study communication, but at different levels: Dr. Stefanie Grosswendt and Dr. Alison Barker have been awarded European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The prestigious grants provide about €1.5 million in funding over a period of five years. →