norther rhino: Najin and Fatu

Science at the planetarium

How to save a functionally extinct species, animal testing in neurobiology, and innovative new cancer therapies – these are just some of the topics covered in the lectures series “New Avenues in Biomedicine.” The series, which includes contributions from three MDC researchers, offers the general public a lens into what’s happening in the world of science.

The lecture series “New Avenues in Biomedicine,” which is co-organized by Campus Berlin-Buch GmbH and the Zeiss Major Planetarium, is free of charge and open to everyone. Biology teachers can request a certificate of attendance.

November 12, 2019, 3–5 p.m., Gläsernes Labor/Berlin-Buch Campus
“New Developments in Brain Research”

How does our brain work, and how can we learn more about it? These are the questions explored by a lecture for teachers, students, and interested persons organized by the Life Science Learning Lab (Gläsernes Labor), in collaboration with Professor Helmut Kettenmann from the German Neuroscience Society: Dr. Roman Stilling from the information initiative “Understanding Animal Research” of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany will talk about how animal testing is an indispensable part of neurobiology research. Professor Rainer Hellweg from the Charité will then give an overview of current findings on drugs and psychosis. “We chose topics for this educational talk that not only provide insights into the latest discoveries in brain research, but that are also of interest to both teachers and students,” says Annett Krause, a press officer at Campus Berlin-Buch GmbH.

December 3, 2019, 4 p.m., Cinema Auditorium/Zeiss Major Planetarium
“BioRescue – Saving the Northern White Rhinos: From Reproduction to Stem Cell Research”

The MDC is collaborating with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) on an exciting project that aims to save a functionally extinct large mammal species. In this lecture, MDC researcher Dr. Sebastian Diecke will present one part of the project. The researchers first convert skin samples – taken in the past from northern white rhinos – into a specific type of stem cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These iPSCs can be matured into any cell type. The aim is to use them to produce egg cells, and to then fertilize these eggs with frozen sperm before implanting them into female southern white rhinos. Sebastian Diecke’s team is already working with such a stem cell line, but they want to generate further lines: “We want to produce stem cells of the best possible quality, in other words, without any genetic alterations, so that ultimately healthy rhinos are born,” says Diecke. These cells are differentiated into progenitor germ cell in preliminary studies – in close collaboration with Katsuhiko Hayashi’s lab in Japan. He previously performed these experiments successfully on mice.

Joint lecture with Steven Seet from the IZW; registration required via email to

January 7, 2020, 4 p.m., Cinema Auditorium/Zeiss Major Planetarium
“Small Molecule Interfering Substances in Cancer Research and Treatment”

Various signaling pathways play a role in determining whether tumors form and how they develop and whether they spread to other parts of the body. This includes the Wnt signaling pathway, a subject that MDC researcher Professor Walter Birchmeier has been studying for long time. Cancer can develop if the genes for certain molecules are mutated within the Wnt pathway in such a way that the pathway no longer functions properly. Birchmeier and his team are working on methods to attack these molecules. “We have developed a promising inhibitor called LF3 that blocks tumor growth in mice. Research groups around the world are working on half a dozen similar inhibitors,” reports Birchmeier. One topic discussed in the January lecture will be how LF3 can be used as a monotherapy or combination therapy to treat human cancer patients.  

Joint lecture with Dr. Marc Nazaré from the FMP; registration required via email to

Further information

Lecture series “New Avenues in Biomedicine” (available in German only)

Rhinos from skin cells