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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

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.

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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