The topic of regenerative medicine and blood plasma: Stem cells are capable of repairing the body and can be used to regenerate all organs. However, why does this not happen in old age? The reason is that the body lacks the growth factors (special proteins) of youth. This is the topic of a project involving the biology professors Dr. Christian Kaltschmidt and Dr. Barbara Kaltschmidt from Bielefeld University and Professor Dr. med. Cornelius Knabbe from the Heart and Diabetes Centre North Rhine-Westphalia (HDZ NRW) in Bad Oeynhausen, a University hospital of the Ruhr University of Bochum. The scientists are cooperating in the search for growth factors in human blood plasma that get human stem cells to proliferate and thereby renew old organs. Their own studies have shown that human blood plasma strongly stimulates the proliferation of stem cells. Studies with animals confirm that factors from this plasma improve muscle regeneration and the functioning of the aging nervous system.
The topic of cardiac insufficiency: Professor Dr. Dario Anselmetti from Bielefeld University’s Faculty of Physics and Professor Dr. Hendrik Milting from the Erich and Hanna Klessmann Institute at the HDZ NRW in Bad Oeynhausen are working on genetic mutations that trigger diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). Such cardiac insufficiencies can lead to sudden cardiac death. One cardiomyopathy that facilitates a particularly aggressive form of cardiac arrhythmia is caused by a mutation of the TMEM43 gene. This can lead particularly to sudden cardiac death in young men. The gene carries the information for producing the protein LUMA that is also found in heart muscle cells. However, the function of this protein LUMA in the cell is still unknown. The scientists want to find out which molecular disease mechanism forms the basis for this mutation.
They are cooperating in the search for proteins in blood plasma that will help to renew old organs (from left to right): Prof. Dr. Barbara Kaltschmidt, Prof. Dr. med. Cornelius Knabbe, and Prof. Dr. Christian Kaltschmidt. Photo: Bielefeld University
The topic of cancer: Two projects are studying the molecular basis and diagnosis of cancers. One project is addressing Mycosis fungoides, a malignant skin tumour. The geneticist Professor Dr. Jörn Kalinowski from Bielefeld University’s Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) is cooperating on this project with Professor Dr. med. Rudolf Stadler from the University Hospital for Dermatology, Venerology, Phlebology, and Allergology in the Johannes Wesling Clinic Minden. The first signs of Mycosis fungoides are generally eczemas that can then take years to develop into tumours. At present, there is no curative therapy for advanced stages of the disease. Kalinowski and Stadler are analysing its molecular basis. They want to determine how cutaneous lymphoma – the tumours of this type of cancer – mutate genetically during the developmental stages of Mycosis fungoides.
The second project is applying an imaging method to study how the metabolism of brain tumours differs from that of healthy brain tissue. It is headed by the biologists Dr. Hanna Bednarz and Professor Dr. Karsten Niehaus from the Faculty of Biology and CeBiTec together with Professor Dr. Udo Kellner and Privatdozent Dr. Ulrich J. Knappe from the Johannes Wesling Clinic Minden, a University hospital of the Ruhr University of Bochum. They are using an imaging mass spectroscopy method developed in Bielefeld to identify tumour markers. Tumour markers are substances produced by the body that indicate whether a cancer is present and which areas of tissue are affected. The Bielefeld method makes it possible to identify and analyse particularly small molecules with molecular imaging. One goal of the project is to make this procedure an integral part of everyday hospital diagnostics.
The topic of depression: This mental disorder is being addressed by a cooperation involving the sport scientist and psychologist Professor Dr. Thomas Schack from Bielefeld University. He is working together with Privatdozent Dr. med. Karin Rosenkranz and Professor Dr. med. Hans-Udo Schneider from the University Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Lübbecke. They are studying how movement training and self-instruction training influence depression and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to adapt). Self-instructions as a part of psychotherapy aim to modify everyday behaviour. Movement training programmes can lead to improvements in such symptoms of depression as lack of drive and mood swings. Both physical activity and self-instruction training lead to changes in brain structure. The new project is studying how the effects on the brain differ for each of these two interventions.
The Forschungsfonds Medizin is funding these five research projects with a total of about 500,000 Euro. In addition, the Forschungsfonds Medizin is currently in its second application phase at Bielefeld University. Together with partners from the University hospitals, scientists at Bielefeld University have until the 15th of March to submit projects.
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