Tissue technology

  • 3D printing to repair damage in the human body

    Dr. Ivan Minev in front of his 3D printer © BIOTEC

    Freigeist Fellowship supports Dr. Ivan Minev in using 3D printing to find ways to repair damage in the human body.
    Dr. Ivan Minev, research group leader at the BIOTEC/CRTD, has been awarded a Freigeist Fellowship from the VolkswagenStiftung. This five-year, 920.000 EUR grant will enable him to establish his own research team. The ‘Freigeist’ initiative is directed toward enthusiastic scientists and scholars with an outstanding record that are given the opportunity to enjoy maximum freedom in their early scientific career.

  • A closer look at brain organoid development

    Cerebral organoid flowchart.

    Heidelberg, 10 March 2017 - How close to reality are brain organoids, and which molecular mechanisms underlie the remarkable self-organizing capacities of tissues? Researchers already have succeeded in growing so-called “cerebral organoids” in a dish - clusters of cells that self-organize into small brain-like structures. Juergen Knoblich and colleagues have now further characterized these organoids and publish their results today in The EMBO Journal. They demonstrate that, like in the human brain, so-called forebrain organizing centers orchestrate developmental processes in the organoid, and that organoids recapitulate the timing of neuronal differentiation events found in human brains.

  • An injectable guidance system for nerve cells

    Dr.-Ing. Laura De Laporte and PhD student Jonas Rose analyze the orientation of nerve cells (red) along the paths provided by gel rods (green). J. Hillmer, DWI

    In many tissues of the human body, such as nerve tissue, the spatial organization of cells plays an important role. Nerve cells and their long protrusions assemble into nerve tracts and transport information throughout the body. When such a tissue is injured, an accurate spatial orientation of the cells facilitates the healing process. Scientists from the DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen developed an injectable gel, which can act as a guidance system for nerve cells. They recently published their results obtained from cell culture experiments in the journal ‚Nano Letters‘.

  • Building better brains: A bioengineered upgrade for organoids

    Bioengineered organoids or so called enCORs are supported by a floating scaffold of PLGA-fiber microfilaments.

    Scientists for the first time combine organoids with bioengineering. Using small microfilaments, they show improved tissue architecture that mimics human brain development more accurately and allows more targeted studies of brain development and its malfunctions, as reported in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology. A few years ago, Jürgen Knoblich and his team at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) have pioneered brain organoid technology. They developed a method for cultivating three-dimensional brain-like structures, so called cerebral organoids, in a dish. This discovery has tremendous potential as it could revolutionize drug discovery and disease research.

  • Cebit 2017: Computational Biologists Predict Antibiotic Resistances Using Biotech

    Time-consuming: Bacteria have to be cultivated in nutrient media in order to detect resistances. Special tests and gene data are designed to provide faster and more reliable results.  Curetis

    Every year, some 25,000 people die in the European Union from antibiotic-resistant, hard to treat bacteria. Although there are diagnostic methods in place to recognize such resistances in advance, these are typically very time-consuming. Researchers from the Center for Bioinformatics at Saarland University, in cooperation with the molecular diagnostics company Curetis, are developing techniques to uncover these dangerous resistances a lot faster. Their secret weapons: a comprehensive gene database, and powerful algorithms. The researchers will be presenting their rapid test procedures, and their outlook for the future, at Stand E28 at the Cebit computer trade show in Hannover, Germany.

  • COPD – what causes the lungs to lose their ability to heal?

    The molecule Wnt5a prevents the repair of structures in the lung of COPD patients. Shown here are the alveolar epithelium (green) and immune cells (red). Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the patients’ lungs lose their ability to repair damages on their own. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partner in the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) now have a new idea as to why this might be so. In the ‘Journal of Experimental Medicine’, they blame the molecule Wnt5a for this problem. The first indication of COPD is usually a chronic cough. As the disease progresses, the airways narrow and often pulmonary emphysema develops. This indicates irreversible expansion and damage to the alveoli, or air sacks. "The body is no longer able to repair the destroyed structures," explains Dr. Dr. Melanie Königshoff, head of the Research Unit Lung Repair and Regeneration (LRR) at the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) of Helmholtz Zentrum München. She and her team have made it their job to understand how this happens.

  • Dogs Help in Breast Carcinoma Research

    Dogs suffering from mammary tumors aid breat cancer research for humans. Michelle Aimée Oesch, University of Zurich

    Cancer of the mammary glands in dogs is very similar to human breast carcinoma. For this reason, treatment methods from human medicine are often used for dogs. Conversely, scientific knowledge gained from canine mammary tumors may also be important to human medicine. Researchers from the University of Zurich were able to show how similar these tumors are in both dogs and humans. Cancer is one of the most frequent diseases not only in people, but in pets as well. Like people, dogs can also suffer from cancer of the mammary glands (mammary tumors). Dog mammary tumors are very similar to breast carcinoma in humans, and much more so than those of rats or mice, for example. For this reason, research on canine mammary tumors is important for human medicine as well. A study performed at the University of Zurich has now shown how similar mammary tumors are in both people and dogs.

  • Easier Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer

    New imaging technologies allow earlier diagnosis of tumors. Source: Murad Omar/Helmholtz Zentrum München

    The Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München is heading the ”Hybrid optical and optoacoustic endoscope for esophageal tracking” (ESOTRAC) research project, in which engineers and physicians together develop a novel hybrid endoscopic instrument for early diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer. The device may reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and, importantly, facilitate early-disease detection leading to earlier start of therapy, which improves therapeutic efficacy over late-disease treatment and leads to immense cost-savings. ESOTRAC has been awarded four million Euros from Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for research and innovation.

  • Gelatine instead of forearm

    The EMPA skin model: gelatine on a cotton substrate. EMPA

    The characteristics of human skin are heavily dependent on the hydration of the tissue - in simple terms, the water content. This also changes its interaction with textiles. Up to now, it has only been possible to determine the interaction between human skin and textiles by means of clinical trials on human subjects. Now, EMPA researchers have developed an artificial gelatine-based skin model that simulates human skin almost perfectly. The moisture content of the human skin influences its characteristics. The addition of moisture softens the skin and changes its appearance. This can be seen in DIY work for example: a thin film of perspiration helps to provide better grip when using a hammer or screwdriver; however, excessive perspiration can make the tools slip.

  • Guards of the human immune system unraveled

    Dendritic cells in lymphatic tissues are mainly influenced by their genetic identity, while in lungs and skin dendritic cells are predominantly affected by tissue-specific factors. © Carla Schaffer / AAAS

    Dendritic cells represent an important component of the immune system: they recognize and engulf invaders, which subsequently triggers a pathogen-specific immune response. Scientists of the University Hospital Erlangen of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the LIMES (Life and Medical Sciences) Institute of the University of Bonn gained substantial knowledge of human dendritic cells, which might contribute to the development of immune therapies in the future. The results were recently published in the Journal “Science Immunology”.

  • How do cells move? Researchers in Münster investigate their mechanical features

    Fluorescent beads (green) in a one-day old zebrafish embryo. The beads injected at the one-cell stage were maintained within the embryos and did not affect their development. Credit: Hörner et al./Journal of Biophotonics

    Using an optical method, researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have investigated the mechanical features of cells in living zebrafish embryos and manipulated, for the first time, several components in the cells simultaneously. The study appears in the Journal of Biophotonics.

    Cells form tissues or organs, migrate from place to place and in doing that their mechanical features and forces generated within them play a key role. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence at Münster University have now investigated the mechanical features of cells in living zebrafish embryos using the holographic optical tweezers-based method.

  • Hunting pathogens at full force

    Migrating melanoma cell whose motion towards the top left is supported by formin proteins (green). HZI/Frieda Kage

    HZI researchers elucidate mechanisms of cellular force generation and motility using protein filaments. Cells inside the human body contain a flexible polymer network called the cytoskeleton which consists of actin filaments - and other components - and undergoes constant assembly and disassembly. This turnover of actin filaments allows cells to change shape and move. Such movements are important for example during embryonic development, wound healing but also for a properly operating immune system. To be able to move through tissue, cells need to expend energy and apply force. For example, immune cells advance into all regions of our body to detect and fight pathogens. In turn, though, some pathogens can abuse the cytoskeleton to adhere to or penetrate into cells. Researchers of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Technische Universität Braunschweig have now elucidated the molecular mechanisms that allow cells to move forward effectively, using powerful cell edge protrusions.

  • Improved accuracy when testing cancer drugs

    Berglind Osk Einarsdottir. Photo: Cecilia Hedström

    A method to more accurately test anti-cancer drugs has now been developed at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. The method paves the way to much earlier assessment of who benefits from a specific drug and who does not.

    “It is common for cancer patients to be prescribed drugs that fail to help them, often with side effects. But, we have shown that this method can be used as early as in the drug development phase to determine which patient groups will benefit from the drug,” says Berglind Osk Einarsdottir, a researcher at Sahlgrenska Cancer Center.

  • Inactivate vaccines faster and more effectively using electron beams

    Fraunhofer FEP.

    The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, one of the leading research and development partners for electron beam applications, is developing processes and equipment based on this technology for use in medicine, pharmacology, and that conserves natural resources and protects the environment. Scientists at Fraunhofer FEP in conjunction with other partners within the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft have been conducting research for several years on employing electron-beam technology in medical engineering. Low-energy inactivation of pathogens by means of electron beams (LEEI – Low-Energy Electron Irradiation) can also be used for faster manufacture of more effective vaccines. The foundation for this has been under joint development by the Fraunhofer FEP, IZI, IPA, and IGB Institutes since 2014.

  • Liquid Crystal Liver

    Reconstruction of the main structures forming the liver lobule: Central (CV) and Portal veins (PV), sinusoidal (magenta) and bile canaliculi (green) networks, and hepatocytes (random colours). Morales-Navarrete et al. / MPI-CBG

    First and new realistic 3D model of the liver lobule since the year 1949: In 1949, Hans Elias pioneered the structural analysis of the mammalian liver tissue and proposed a model of the liver lobule, which is used to this day in textbooks. Almost 70 years later, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, the MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems, & the TU Dresden took advantage of novel microscopy developments, computer-aided image analysis, & 3D tissue reconstruction and created a new realistic 3D model of liver organization. Remarkably, they discovered that the liver features an organized structure, similar to liquid crystals.

  • LZH initiates an innovations network on optogenetics

    Electrophysiological investigation of an optogenetically altered neuron cell line. Photo: LZH

    Within the framework of the BMBF initiative “Innovation forums for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)”, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) is striving to set up a nationwide network on optogenetics. This network will pool the competencies of the relevant research fields in order to unlock the potential of light-controllable biomolecules in combination with up-to-date light technology. Especially in the area of biomedical sciences, there are promising approaches for new treatment methods, for example for neurological diseases.

  • Manufacturing Live Tissue with a 3D Printer

    Among the 300 finalist teams this year there were twelve from Germany, including this joint team from TUM and LMU of Munich. (Photo: TUM/ A. Heddergott)

    At the international iGEM academic competition in the field of synthetic biology, the joint team of students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) won the first rank (Grand Prize) in the “Overgraduate” category. The team from Munich developed an innovative process which allows intact tissue to be built with the use of a 3D printer.

  • New Helmholtz Institute for Metabolism Research in Leipzig

    The Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research and already cooperates very successfully in the area of diabetes with the Technical University of Munich, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen as well as the Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden, the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf and the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbrücke. The new institute in Leipzig will secure and further expand long-standing collaboration in the field of adiposity and secondary conditions.

    Diabetes affects many people in Germany and is one of the greatest health challenges for society due to its secondary health issues. In order to promote the development of new treatments in this area, the Helmholtz Zentrum München, together with the Leipzig University, will set up the Helmholtz Institute for Metabolic, Adiposity and Vascular Research (HI-MAG).

    "The new institute combines the in-depth clinical expertise of the University Hospital Leipzig and our innovative approaches from pre-clinical research," explains Prof. Dr. Günther Wess, CEO of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. "Using this systematic approach, we want to close the large research gap concerning the role of fatty tissue in the formation and progression of illnesses."

  • New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer

    Dr. Francesco Neri and his colleagues discovered how the new mechanism of gene inactivation could protect against aging and cancer. [Graphic: Kerstin Wagner / FLI; Source: Fotolia.com @ Andrea Danti]

    Every cell in our body contains the complete DNA library. So-called methyl groups regulate that in body tissues only the genetic information is expressed that is indeed needed in this tissue. Now, for the first time, researchers from the Leibniz Institute on Aging in Jena, Germany, verified that a lack of methyl groups in the gene body leads to an incorrect gene activation and, as a consequence, may lead to the emergence of cancer. The stunning results were published in the renowned Journal Nature on February 22, 2017.

    Jena. Each cell in the body contains the basic building plan of our entire organism. It is written in the “DNA” and comprises single genes which determine specific individual attributes.

  • Research team at the CRTD identifies cells that form new bone during Axolotl finger regeneration

    Joshua Currie and Elly Tanaka. © CRTD

    At the DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) - Cluster of Excellence at the TU Dresden, a team of researchers lead by Joshua Currie, PhD, and Elly Tanaka, PhD, used live imaging during axolotl regeneration to identify the unique migration kinetics of various connective tissue cell types which choreograph their fate and tissue contribution during regeneration. The results were published in the scientific journal Developmental Cell on November 21, 2016.