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New Collaborative Research Centers at LMU

Xenotransplantation, Nanoagents, Protein Research and Multiple Sclerosis

Munich, 06/01/2012

LMU Munich will contribute to four new Collaborative Research Centers set up by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and will serve as the coordinating institution for two of them.

LMU Munich will contribute to four new Collaborative Research Centers (CRCs), and act as the coordinating partner for two of these, CRC 127 (Biology of xenogenic Cell and Organ Transplantation) and CRC 1032 (Nanoagents for Spatiotemporal Control of Molecular and Cellular Reactions). LMU will also participate in CRC / TR 128 (Initiation, Effector and Regulation Mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis) and CRC 1035 (Control of Protein Function Through Conformational Switching), for which Mainz University and the Technical University of Munich respectively will serve as coordinators.

CRC Transregio 127: Biology of Xenogenic Cell and Organ Transplantation
Organ transplantation is often the only effective treatment option for patients who are at risk of terminal organ failure or suffer from various chronic illnesses. However, the demand for donor organs far exceeds the supply. Many researchers are now exploring xenotransplantation, i.e. transplantation of animal organs or tissues into humans, as a means of closing this gap, but the problem of rejection by the human immune system constitutes a major obstacle to this approach.

Transgenic pigs may offer a solution. The researchers involved in the new CRC, which will begin its work on 1. July 2012 with a total grant of 12.8 million euros, hope to attain a better understanding of how the host immune system reacts to foreign tissue, and learn how to suppress it effectively. They plan to use as organ donors transgenic pig strains that have been genetically altered so as to minimize the rejection reaction their tissues provoke. Tissues from these strains will then be tested in preclinical settings and in clinical studies. The program will focus on the improvement of xenotransplantation of pancreatic beta-cells for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

Professor Bruno Reichart of LMU Munich University Hospital will coordinate the program, in which teams based at the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden, the Medical University of Hannover, and researchers at the Helmholtz Center in Munich, the Friedrich Löffler Institute, the German Primate Center, the Paul Ehrlich Institute and the Robert Koch Institute will also take part.

CRC 1032: Nanoagents for Spatiotemporal Control of Molecular and Cellular Reactions
Nanotechnology makes possible the construction of functional systems from components with dimensions of a few millionths of a millimeter. The aim of the new CRC is to design synthetic elements, called nanoagents, which can control molecular and cellular reactions. Starting from components such as DNA, proteins and biological membranes, the idea is to create artificial nanostructures that allow one to regulate synthetic reaction networks or natural networks reconstituted in synthetic contexts.

This interdisciplinary field requires the input of physicists, chemists and biochemists, as well as pharmacological and medical specialists. One of the goals of the program is to use the new nanoagents to control processes in living cells. Functional nanoparticles and programmable DNA constructs could, for instance, be used to regulate cell motility, which is important in the context of cancer metastasis, angiogenesis and inflammation.

LMU will act as coordinating institution for the program. Its partners in the venture are the Technical University of Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. Coordinator of the CRC is Professor Joachim Rädler of the Faculty of Physics at LMU. The program will begin on 1. July 2012, and has a total budget of 10 million euros.

CRC / TR 128 Initiation, Effector and Regulatory Mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis
The goal of this CRC is to gain a better understanding of the origin of multiple sclerosis and develop novel ways to treat it. Multiple sclerosis is an incurable disease that is due to a misdirected immune reaction. This leads to destruction of the myelin sheath which surrounds motor neurons and ultimately to loss of the nerve cells themselves. The new CRC Transregio, coordinated by Mainz University, will involve teams based in Mainz, Münster, Frankfurt and Munich. Professor Reinhard Hohlfeld, Director of the Institute of Clinical Neuroimmunology at LMU, will coordinate the work in Munich.

SFB 1035 Control of Protein Function Through Conformational Switching
Changes in protein structure are usually associated with alterations in their functional activity. So can conformational changes be utilized in a directed fashion, as switches, to regulate the biological activities of proteins? That is the question this new CRC will attempt to answer. In addition to researchers at the TU Munich, which will coordinate the program, teams based at the Helmholtz Center in Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried will take part, together with biologists, chemists and bioinformaticians at LMU.

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