Robert Koch Award 2015 goes to Ralf Bartenschlager and Charles Rice
The Laureates lay the foundation for dramatic advances in the treatment of hepatitis C. Peter Piot receives Robert Koch Gold Medal for his co-discovery of the Ebola virus and the fight against HIV infection in Africa.
Team spirit in the genome
Genes, like people, are fundamentally social. Just as we often work in teams, companies, or other more or less complex organisations, genes often work together in genetic networks. And just as our productivity is often influenced by who we work with, the effects of genes depend on the peers they interact with. That’s why understanding genetic predispositions remains a challenge – each person’s genome is a unique combination of genes, and it’s difficult to work out how they will interact and function as a team. In football, a team of star players may end up standing in each other’s way, whereas a team with good team spirits can achieve success that one would not expect from the players individually.
Migrating immune cells promote nerve cell demise in the brain
The slow death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a certain region of the brain is the principal cause underlying Parkinson's disease. In mice, it is possible to simulate the symptoms of this disease using a substance that selectively kills dopamine-producing neurons. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now shown for the first time in mouse experiments that after this treatment, cells of the peripheral immune system migrate from the bloodstream into the brain, where they play a major role in the death of neurons. The investigators were able to reduce the level of neurodegeneration using a substance that blocks a specific surface molecule on these inflammatory cells.
How oxytocin signals regulate behavior
The neuropeptide oxytocin impacts the nervous system and, thus, regulates human behavior. Valery Grinevich, a researcher at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), wants to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying this regulation. To this end, Grinevich, who leads the Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Group "Neuropeptides" at the DKFZ, is collaborating with colleagues from the USA, Israel and France. The committee of the international Human Frontier Science Program has now decided to support the project.
Selective inhibition of a specific enzyme reduces side effects
In cases of neuroblastoma, which is an aggressive type of cancer in children, tumor growth can be slowed down by selective inhibition of a specific cancer-promoting enzyme. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now shown in experiments that this leads to less aggressive growth of the cancer cells. Treatment outcomes can be enhanced even further by combining the inhibitor with a vitamin A derivative that also supports the differentiation of the immature cells into neurons.
German-Israeli exchange in science management
For over 25 years, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University have been maintaining a consistent and intensive exchange with Israeli scientific research institutes. Every two years, administrative representatives from various Israeli universities and the Weizmann Institute meet with representatives of Heidelberg University and the DKFZ at a conference held alternately between Israel and Heidelberg. This year, the DKFZ and Heidelberg University will be hosting the 15th Israeli-German Administrators’ Conference (IGAC) on March 16-19. Over 60 participants will be in attendance.
Deadly to cancer cells only: A molecular cause for selective effectiveness of parvovirus therapy discovered
Parvoviruses can destroy cancer cells and are currently being tested in a preliminary clinical trial to treat malignant brain cancer. For their replication, the viruses need a particular enzyme in the cell. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now discovered that in healthy human cells, parvoviruses are unable to activate this enzyme. In many cases of malignant brain cancer, however, the enzyme is permanently active. As a result, this enables the viruses to replicate and to destroy the cancer cells. It accounts not only for the viruses' natural selectivity for cancer cells but also helps identify cancer patients who might benefit from parvovirus therapy.
A new tool for detecting and destroying norovirus
Norovirus infection is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu.” A research team at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) recently produced “nanobodies” that could be used to better characterize the structural makeup of the virus. They discovered that these nanobodies could detect the virus in clinical stool samples and disassemble intact norovirus particles. Such nanobodies may potentially be used to not only better detect but also treat symptoms of norovirus infection in the clinic.
Genome Analysis of Cancer Cells: Germany’s Biggest Sequencing Unit Established in Heidelberg
Thorough examination of the genome of cancer cells is essential for a better understanding of the disease and to improve treatment. Therefore, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), with the support of the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), will invest in the Illumina HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System, the world’s first and only platform to deliver full coverage human whole genome for less than 1000 Euros per genome with the power to sequence more than 18,000 genomes per year. With the ten DNA sequencers, scientists will be able to identify all cancer-linked genetic variations in the shortest possible time. This purchase marks the first example of a research platform operated within the context of DKTK and DKFZ in Germany.
European Research Council supports two more DKFZ researchers
The European Research Council (ERC) awards “Consolidator Grants” to support excellent young researchers at the stage when they are launching their own independent science career. Two junior research group leaders from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now received the prestigious grants: Markus Feuerer is studying how special T cells prevent an immune response against tumors. Hai-Kun Liu is investigating why brain tumors are composed of a variety of cells, with the goal of finding better treatment methods.