Press and Public Relations

Disrupted Lipid Metabolism: Young DKFZ Researcher Honored with Two Awards

No. 28 | 08/05/2013 | by CK/Sel

Molecular biologist Dr. Maria Rohm pursues research on fat decomposition in the human body. Now she has won two prestigious awards at once for her research: the Novartis Young Endocrinologist Award, worth €10,000, of the German Society of Endocrinology (DGE), and the €7,500 sponsorship award of the German Diabetes Association (DDG), donated by Sanofi-Aventis Germany. Maria Rohm works as a scientist at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), where she is studying the molecular foundations of a disrupted lipid metabolism.

Dr. Maria Rohm
© dkfz.de

A functioning lipid metabolism ensures that the body metabolizes excess nutrients and stores them, mostly as lipids, in adipose cells. Lipids are the body’s energy deposits. If the organism needs more energy than it can take in through food, it breaks down the deposits to supply organs and muscle with energy. Disruptions in this lipid metabolism may cause many diseases such as overweight, obesity and diabetes.

A key element of the lipid metabolism is TBLR1, a molecular switch that promotes fat decomposition. In her doctoral thesis, Maria Rohm studied specially bred mice whose fat cells couldn’t produce TBLR1. She discovered that without this molecule the animals developed obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, she studied adipose tissue of individuals with normal body weight and of obese individuals. She found out that it contained less TBLR1 in obese individuals than it does in individuals with normal weight. “This confirms our hypothesis that a lack of TBLR1 leads to obesity in humans, too,” says Maria Rohm. “Since obesity increases cancer risk, we plan to investigate how TBLR1 deficiency impacts tumor growth in mice.”

The Novartis Young Endocrinologist Award of the German Society of Endocrinology is awarded annually to honor young scientists for their outstanding work in the field of hormone research. The award ceremony took place on March 14, 2013 in Düsseldorf. The career grant of the German Diabetes Association is awarded for excellent doctoral theses in the field of diabetology. It is donated by Sanofi-Aventis Germany and is primarily intended to fund an external research stay. The award will be presented this year on May 9 in Leipzig.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.

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