Strategic Communication and Public Relations

Collaborative Research Center on the Wnt signaling pathway enters second funding period

No. 31c3 | 08/06/2021

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is funding the Collaborative Research Center "Mechanisms and Functions of the Wnt Signaling Pathway" (SFB 1324), founded in 2017, for another four years with approximately 11.5 million euros. The SFB researchers are investigating the network of Wnt signaling proteins, the misregulation of which can result in serious diseases such as cancer.

© N. Rindtorff J. Betge DKFZ, UMM

The spokesman of the SFB 1324 is Michael Boutros from the University of Heidelberg and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). In SFB 1324, scientists from the DKFZ, the EMBL and the University of Heidelberg (Centre for Organismal Studies, Biochemistry Centre, Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Computing) and from the two medical faculties in Heidelberg and Mannheim work closely together across institutions in the Rhine-Neckar region. The Collaborative Research Centre is located at the Centre for Organismal Studies at Heidelberg University.

Research in SFB 1324 focuses on Wnt proteins, which control central processes in embryonic development and cell differentiation as well as in tumorigenesis. They arose very early in the evolution of animals and also play an important role in many human diseases. As universal developmental factors in the animal kingdom, they regulate organ development and control stem cell behavior; they are also involved in the formation of body axes and pattern formation. If disturbances occur in the Wnt signaling network due to mutations or epigenetic dysregulation, serious diseases such as cancer can result.

The scientists involved in the Collaborative Research Center are investigating the Wnt signaling pathway using biochemical, biophysical, genetic and mathematical approaches. After focusing primarily on mechanisms of Wnt signaling transmission during the first funding period, the Heidelberg scientists now want to put the knowledge gained into a spatial and temporal context during organ development and in the development of diseases. Technology infrastructures available in the Rhine-Neckar region in the fields of genome editing and CRISPR/Cas, high-resolution proteomics and quantitative microscopy support the SFB 1324 researchers in their work.

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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