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ECRC News 2015

December 14, 2015

Sudden cardiac death: large study to improve risk assessment

One of the most common causes of sudden cardiac death in young people is a genetic condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). However, it is difficult to assess the risk of sudden cardiac death among people with this condition using current methods. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a large-scale study that should considerably improve risk assessment in this area. The Outpatient Clinic for Cardiology at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association and of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is leading the clinical trials being conducted at participating German research centers with MRI expertise.


November 6, 2015

Neurodermatitis genes influence other allergies

There’s a typical "career" for some allergic people, and it starts very early on the skin: babies develop atopic dermatitis, food allergies may follow, then comes asthma and later on hay fever. A group of scientists led by Ingo Marenholz and Young-Ae Lee at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), working with colleagues from several institutions, has now identified seven genetic risk loci for this course of disease. Two of these loci were previously unknown and mainly influence the connection between atopic dermatitis and asthma. According to the study, the regions that determine the risk for atopic dermatitis are mainly those that also determine the risk for the further development of the typical allergic career. This course of disease is also called the "atopic march." The scientists analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people and published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

October 21, 2015

Too much Salt in Food can push the Immune System out of Equilibrium

Too much salt in food can influence the immune system. In a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation*, Dr. Katrina Binger, Matthias Gebhardt, and Professor Dominik Müller from the Experimental Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin establish that increased salt consumption by rodents leads to delayed healing of their wounds because too much salt pushes the immune system out of equilibrium. At the same time, they were successful in explaining the mechanism causing this imbalance.

October 20, 2015

Ten new Genetic Risk Loci for Eczema Discovered

International Study with over 50,000 Eczema Patients

Researchers in Europe, Australia, Asia, and America have now discovered ten new risk loci for the chronic inflammatory skin disease eczema. Among the new candidate genes for eczema, the researchers came upon genes that are important for the innate immune system and for the development and function of T-cells which play an important role in specific immune responses. This emphasizes the importance of the immune system in the onset and progression of eczema. With the newly identified risk regions, a total of 31 risk regions for eczema are now known (Nature Genetics, doi:10.1038/ng3424).

August 31, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers: MACC1 Gene Is an Independent Prognostic Biomarker for Survival in Klatskin Tumor Patients

Aid in Deciding Whether Surgery Is Best Option

Bile duct cancer is rare and is usually detected too late. Often only extensive liver surgery can help or, in rare cases, liver transplantation. But which patients will benefit from surgery and which will not, because their risk of cancer recurrence is too high? With the oncogene MACC1 as a biomarker, physicians for the first time have a tool to decide which treatment option is best for patients with Klatskin carcinoma, one type of bile duct cancer. If MACC1 expression is low, the patients have a good chance that surgery will prolong survival. By contrast, if the gene is upregulated, the risk of recurrence is high. These were the findings of a study by Andri Lederer and Professor Ulrike Stein of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), an institutional cooperation between the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin on Campus Berlin -Buch (Hepatology; 2015;62:841-850)*.

August 13, 2015

Skeletal Muscle Atrophy in Congestive Heart Failure

Mechanism Elucidated by MDC and Charité Researchers

It is a paradox: Patients with advanced congestive heart failure lose skeletal muscle mass, but their heart muscles become enlarged to provide the body with an adequate supply of blood and thus with oxygen. It has long been known that the protein angiotensin II plays a villainous role in this process, but the exact mechanism has remained unclear. Now, after seven years of fitting the pieces of this puzzle together, the biologist Dr. Philipp Du Bois and the cardiologist PD Dr. Jens Fielitz of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in collaboration with the molecular biologist Professor Eric N. Olson (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA) have elucidated the process and identified new therapeutic targets (Circulation Research doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.114.305393)*.

May 28, 2015


Lan Chen receives “National Award for Out-standing Self-financed Chinese Students Abroad”

Ms Lan Chen, PhD student in the ECRC research group of Maik Gollasch, has been granted the “2014 National Award for Out-standing Self-financed Chinese Students Abroad” by the China Scholarship Council. The award is granted to selected young talents for outstanding academic achievements all over the world.

Reception of awardees in Germany and four mentors at Chinese Embassy in Berlin on May 9, 2015

Lan Chen was funded by her home university, Xiamen Zhongshan Hospital, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. The results of her PhD studies were published in PLoS One and Acta Physiol. including an editorial.

Chen L, Markó L, Kaßmann M, Zhu Y, Wu K, Gollasch M. Role of TRPV1 channels in ischemia/reperfusion-induced acute kidney injury. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 17;9(10):e109842. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109842. eCollection 2014. PubMed

PMID: 25330307; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4201466.

Chen L, Kaßmann M, Sendeski M, Tsvetkov D, Marko L, Michalick L, Riehle M, Liedtke WB, Kuebler WM, Harteneck C, Tepel M, Patzak A, Gollasch M. Functional transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 and transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 channels along different segments of the renal vasculature. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2015 Feb;213(2):481-91. doi: 10.1111/apha.12355. Epub 2014 Aug 21.

PubMed PMID: 25069877.


Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2015 Feb;213(2):296-7. doi: 10.1111/apha.12396. Epub 2014 Oct 18. TRPs in the kidney - location, location, location. Pires PW(1), Earley S.

May 11, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers Identify Gene Responsible for Hypertension and Brachydactyly

Individuals with this altered gene have hereditary hypertension (high blood pressure) and at the same time a skeletal malformation called brachydactyly type E, which is characterized by unusually short fingers and toes. The effect on blood pressure is so serious that – if left untreated – it most often leads to death before age fifty. After more than 20 years of research, scientists of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the MDC Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have now identified the gene that causes this rare syndrome. In six families not related to each other they discovered different point mutations in the gene encoding phosphodiesterase-3A (PDE3A). These mutations always lead to high blood pressure and shortened bones of the extremities, particularly the metacarpal and metatarsal bones. This syndrome is the first Mendelian hypertension form (salt-resistant) not based on salt reabsorption but instead is more directly related to resistance in small blood vessels (Nature Genetics online, doi:10.1038/ng.3302)*.

April 15, 2015

OMEICOS Therapeutics Raises EUR 6.2 Million in Series A to Advance Lead Candidate in Atrial Fibrillation

OMEICOS Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class small molecule therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases including atrial fibrillation (AF), today announced that it has raised EUR 6.2 million in a Series A round. Participating in the round were Vesalius Biocapital II S.A. SICAR, acting as lead; a SMS Group Company; VC Fonds Technologie Berlin; Hightech Gruenderfonds II GmbH & Co. KG (HTGF); and KfW Group. As part of the financing round, the company has received subsidies of EUR 550,000 via Ascenion’s Spinnovator, a grant program supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

March 19, 2015

MDC and Charité Researchers Tweak the Immune System to Target Cells Bearing Tumor Antigens

Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Berlin-Buch, have succeeded in generating cells of the immune system to specifically target and destroy cancer cells. The research findings of Matthias Obenaus, Professor Thomas Blankenstein (MDC and Charité), Dr. Matthias Leisegang (MDC) and Professor Wolfgang Uckert (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and MDC) as well as Professor Dolores Schendel (Medigene AG, Planegg/Martinsried) have now been published in Nature Biotechnology online (doi:10.1038/nbt.3147)*.

February 18, 2015

European Research Council grants: Good news for EU-LIFE centres, but with a bitter aftertaste

EU-LIFE European research centres obtained 14 new ERC Starting and Consolidator grants in the latest competitions, which takes the total of ERC-funded grants currently running in centres belonging to the alliance to over 100. As a whole, EU-LIFE partners have a success rate of at least three times higher than the general success rate of ERC Starting and Consolidator grants (over 33% compared to an average of 10%). But this news comes with a bitter aftertaste, as the announced cuts in the Horizon 2020 budget (including ERC) due to the so-called Juncker’s plan may now jeopardise Europe’s competitiveness in future research and innovation.