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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.