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Hans-Reimer Rodewald has been elected EMBO Member

No. 19c | 31/05/2016 | by Koh

Hans-Reimer Rodewald from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) has been elected to join the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in recognition of his research achievements in immunology. The more than 1,700 EMBO Members are internationally leading scientists in their fields.

Hans-Reimer Rodewald
© dkfz.de

Hans-Reimer Rodewald heads the Division of Cellular Immunology at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) in Heidelberg. With his team, he is studying how immune cells and immunological organs develop and which defects in this process lead to diseases. Using mouse models, they investigate, among other things, how hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow work, how T cells mature in the thymus gland, how macrophages develop, and which functions mast cells have.

Rodewald and his colleagues discovered that precursor cells of T cells turn cancerous when they reside in the thymus for unnaturally long periods. This can happen when the supply of new precursors into the thymus is interrupted. In mice, the investigators were able to reveal the molecular mechanisms that lead to the spontaneous development of these T cell leukemias.  

Mast cells, which are probably the most enigmatic cells of the immune system, are another focus of Rodewald’s work. The role of mast cells in allergies is known – which other functions do they have? Researchers working with Rodewald bred mice whose immune systems are deficient of any mast cells while normal in all other respects. Using these animal models, the researchers studied many of the functions that have been attributed to mast cells to date.

In addition, researchers in Rodewald’s department were able to equip blood stem cells with a fluorescent marker that can be switched on from the outside. Thus, they were able, for the first time, to observe the development of blood cells from stem cells without cell transplantation in the living organism and to determine the dynamics of blood formation using these data.

Rodewald has published his research results in about one hundred scientific publications so far, many of them in the most prestigious specialist journals. In 2009, he received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

Hans-Reimer Rodewald studied veterinary medicine in Hannover and subsequently did his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg. Afterwards, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School. From 1992 to 1999, Rodewald was a member of the Basel Institute for Immunology. He subsequently accepted a professorship for Immunology at the University of Ulm. Since 2010, he has led the Division of Cellular Immunology at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

The science organization EMBO has promoted molecular biology research in Europe since 1964. New members are nominated and elected by other members in recognition of outstanding scientific achievements. Numerous EMBO Members have been awarded Nobel Prizes. Among them is Harald zur Hausen, who served as Chairman and Scientific Director of the DKFZ for many years and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008. This year, 58 life scientists have been honored with an EMBO membership.  

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. More than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are 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 all questions on cancer.

Jointly with partners from the university hospitals, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and the Hopp Children's Tumour Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partner locations. NCT and DKTK sites combine excellent university medicine with the high-profile research of the DKFZ. They contribute to the endeavor of transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.

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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