Diseases

  • Immune system reactions elucidated by mathematics

    Bacteria of the species Streptococcus pneumoniae colonising an endothelial cell. HZI/M. Rohde

    Using computer-based simulations and mouse experiments, HZI researchers disentangled the effects of proinflammatory signaling molecules on the post-influenza susceptibility to pneumococcal coinfection. A body infected by the influenza virus is particularly susceptible to other pathogens. Bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, i.e. the pathogen causing pneumonia, find it easy to attack an influenza-modulated immune system and to spread widely. This can even be fatal in some cases. The reasons for the bacterial growth in the presence of a coinfection by influenza virus and bacteria is still debatable.

  • Increased Usability and Precision in Vascular Imaging

    3D imaging of the blood vessels of a mouse head using X-ray computer tomography and the newly developed contrast agent "XlinCA". Willy Kuo, University of Zurich

    Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a new X-ray contrast agent. The contrast agent is easier to use and distributes into all blood vessels more reliably, increasing the precision of vascular imaging. This reduces the number of animals required in research experiments. 
    Various diseases in humans and animals – such as tumors, strokes or chronic kidney disease – damage the blood vessels. Capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body, are particularly affected. The large surface area of the capillary network enables oxygen to be exchanged between the blood and the surrounding tissue, such as the muscles when we exercise or the brain when we think.

  • Is an agent used to treat psoriasis aimed at the wrong target?

    Common psoriasis, also called psoriasis vulgaris, is an inflammatory skin disease. Source Helmholtz Zentrum München

    The antibody ustekinumab is in use for treatment of psoriasis since 2009. It inhibits the underlying inflammation by neutralizing certain messengers of the immune system. Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Technical University of Munich and the University of Zurich have now shown in ‘Nature Communications’ that one of these messengers could actually be helpful in battling the illness. Common psoriasis, also called psoriasis vulgaris, is an inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by severely scaling skin in areas ranging from small to palm-sized. The disease is estimated to affect between two and three percent of all Europeans.

  • Molecular patterns of complex diseases

    Interaction Network of Genome, Proteome and Diseases. Source: Nature Communications / CC BY 4.0

    The Helmholtz Zentrum München has published results of the largest genome-wide association study on proteomics to date. An international team of scientists reports 539 associations between protein levels and genetic variants in ‘Nature Communications’. These associations overlap with risk genes for 42 complex diseases. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide an opportunity to associate concentration changes in certain proteins or metabolic products with gene loci. Knowledge of these genes makes it possible to establish connections to complex diseases. Scientists utilize the fact that to date, hundreds of associations between genetic variants and complex diseases have been demonstrated. These associations are immensely important because they do help uncover the underlying molecular mechanisms.

  • Multiple Sklerose: Neu entdeckter Signalmechanismus macht T-Zellen pathogen

    Die dendritische Zelle und die T-Zelle bei der Clusterbildung (rechts im Bild); Prof. Dr. Thomas Korn (Technische Universität München)

    Folgenschwere Instruktionen: T-Zellen sind ein wichtiger Teil des Immunsystems. Sie können aber nicht nur Krankheitserreger ausschalten, sondern auch selbst zu einer Gefahr werden. Forscherinnen und Forscher der Technischen Universität München (TUM) und der Universitätsmedizin Mainz haben herausgefunden, wann bestimmte T-Zellen zu krankheitserregenden T-Zellen werden, die mit Multipler Sklerose in Verbindung gebracht werden. Die Ergebnisse erklären, warum bestimmte Behandlungsansätze nicht zuverlässig wirken. Sie sind in der aktuellen Ausgabe von „nature immunology“ veröffentlicht.

  • New Contents: Neuronal Parkinson Inclusions are Different than Expected

    Content of Lewy bodies: The inclusions in the neurons contain mainly a membranous medley instead of the anticipated protein fibrils. University of Basel, Biozentrum

    An international team of researchers involving members of the University of Basel’s Biozentrum challenges the conventional understanding of the cause of Parkinson’s disease. The researchers have shown that the inclusions in the brain’s neurons, characteristic of Parkinson‘s disease, are comprised of a membranous medley rather than protein fibrils. The recently published study in “Nature Neuroscience” raises new questions about the etiology of Parkinson’s disease.

  • New risk factors for anxiety disorders

    Activation of the brain's fear network, visualized using functional magnetic resonance imaging. (picture: Dr. Tina Lonsdorf, Systems Neuroscience UKE Hamburg)

    Several newly discovered variants of a gene increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. A research team aims to derive new therapies from this finding which are better tailored to the individual patients.

    Mental, social and inherited factors all play a role in anxiety disorders. In the journal "Molecular Psychiatry", a research team from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, describes a hitherto unknown genetic pathway for developing such diseases: They pinpointed at least four variants of the GLRB gene (glycine receptor B) as risk factors for anxiety and panic disorders. More than 5000 voluntary participants and 500 patients afflicted by panic disorder took part in the study that delivered these results.

  • Promising transport molecule for steroid medications discovered

    Copyright: Jacobs University / Khaleel Assaf

    When the word steroids comes up, a lot of people think of doping. It is much less well known that steroids are used in the treatment of many diseases, such as asthma, neurodermatitis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s Disease. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Jacobs University in Bremen have now found a possible way that steroids can exert their effect in the human body in a gentler and more efficient way.

  • Protecting the Neuronal Architecture

    Illustration_1: Stroke leads to a reduction of VEGFD levels, loss of dendrites, brain damage, and impaired motor functions. As research on a mouse model has shown, VEGFD-based therapies can prevent structural disintegration, thereby facilitating functional recovery. Heidelberg University

    Protecting nerve cells from losing their characteristic extensions, the dendrites, can reduce brain damage after a stroke. Neurobiologists from Heidelberg University have demonstrated this by means of research on a mouse model. The team, led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading in cooperation with Junior Professor Dr Daniela Mauceri, is investigating the protection of neuronal architecture to develop new approaches to treating neurodegenerative diseases. The current research findings were published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

  • Protein Complex May Help Prevent Neurodegenerative Diseases

    Aggregation of PolyQ35 protein in C. elegans is suppressed by NAC. The images show the head region of worms expressing a Huntington’s disease related polyglutamine-expanded protein (PolyQ35). Overexpression of NAC in the worm (right image) prevents aggregation and toxicity of PolyQ35. Copyright: Karina Gense

    A protein complex within the cell has been found to play a key role in preventing the toxicity of proteins which build up amyloid plaques and can lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. Researchers from the Universities of Konstanz (Germany), Leeds (UK) and Stanford (USA) have discovered that the nascent polypeptide-associated complex (NAC) helps to prevent the aggregation of proteins associated with several neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Rare blood disease improves the defence against germs

    Blood smear of a myeloproliferative neoplasia patient with a significant increase in the number of platelets (purple) as compared to the clearly larger red blood cells. Ed Uthman/CC BY 2.0

    Researchers of the HZI and of the University of Magdeburg find increased immune reaction associated with a rare bone marrow disease. Patients afflicted by myeloproliferative neoplasia – a group of chronic malignant bone marrow diseases – bear a mutation in their haematopoietic stem cells. The mutation leads to the bone marrow producing too many blood cells, which thickens the blood. This can lead to blood clots or clogged blood vessels, which may trigger, e.g., a stroke. Scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and of the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg recently discovered that certain cells of the immune system also bear this mutation in those patients that possess a particularly large number of altered stem cells. The impact of this scenario on the defence against pathogens was investigated in mice by the scientists. They published their results in Leukemia.

  • Retina-on-a-chip Provides Powerful Tool for Studying Eye Disease

    Organ-on-a-chip system. Fraunhofer IGB

    Impact statement: New technology that recreates some of the complexity of the human retina may help scientists study eye disease and screen for drug side effects that harm the eye. The development of a retina-on-a-chip, which combines living human cells with an artificial tissue-like system, has been described today in the open-access journal eLife. This cutting-edge tool may provide a useful alternative to existing models for studying eye disease and allow scientists to test the effects of drugs on the retina more efficiently.

  • Utilizing Findings From Cancer Research: Understanding the Mechanisms of Immunity to SARS-COV-2

    Prof. Mascha Binder, her team and other partners investigate why every person reacts differently to an infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. University Hospital Halle

    Why does every person react differently to an infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2? Why do some people have no symptoms or only mild symptoms of COVID-19, the disease which it causes? And why do some people become so severely ill that they require ventilators or even die?

    These questions are being investigated by Professor Mascha Binder, director of the Department of Internal Medicine IV at University Hospital Halle (Saale), together with her team and other partners from University Hospital Halle (UKH) and the Hanover Medical School.