A new Collaborative Research Center will start in July with a total funding of nearly 14 million euros, headed by the German Institute for Experimental Biomedicine in Würzburg. The aim is to decode the complex and insufficiently understood functions of platelets, the so-called thrombocytes. The scientists hope to use these findings to gain new insights into platelet research which allow better treatment of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, acute lung failure and cancer.
„Thrombocytes do much more than to stop bleedings and to cause heart attacks,“ explains Professor Bernhard Nieswandt, Director of the Institute for Experimental Biomedicine, supported by the University Hospital Würzburg (UKW) and the Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine of the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU), Germany. „Recent studies have suggested that there are very complex interactions between the smallest blood cells and various inflammatory processes, cellular defense mechanisms, innate immunity, the maintenance of vascular and organ functions and the development of tumors.“ According to Professor Nieswandt a more detailed knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms is central to a better understanding of diseases such as stroke and acute respiratory failure.
In collaboration with the University of Tübingen, Germany
The outstanding importance of platelet research was also confirmed by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft): They recently approved the Collaborative Research Center Transregio (SFB / TR 240) „Thrombocytes – molecular, cellular and systemic functions under physiological and pathological conditions“. The SFB TR 240 is funded with 13.7 million euros, for an initial term of four years, starting on July 1, 2018.
The Würzburg Institute for Experimental Biomedicine was leading the application. Prof. Dr. med. Meinrad Gawaz, Director of the Medical Clinic III (Cardiology) of the University of Tübingen, was co-applicant. Both institutions have longstanding research programs on platelets.
From bench to bedside: Basic research, but close to clinical application
„The very pronounced translational character that unites basic researchers with clinicians is one special strength of our network“, emphasizes Professor Nieswandt and specifies: „We are positive that our newly gained basic findings will quickly lead to novel treatment concepts for a whole series of Diseases that have not previously been seen in the context of platelets. „
Prof. Dr. med. Georg Ertl, Medical Director of the UKW, says proudly with regard to the reputation of the location: „The DFG reviewers confirmed with this grant approval that Professor Nieswandt and his team are among the world elite in fundamental platelet research. Research for our patients is one of our outstanding duties.“
Scientists from the Greifswald University Hospital and the Dortmund Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS) are also involved in the new Collaborative Research Center. The interdisciplinary research group combines molecular genetics, in vivo disease models, high resolution microscopy, in vivo imaging, systems biology, translational approaches and clinical research.
Each day, around 100 billion platelets are produced from giant progenitor cells in the bone marrow of a healthy person, circulating in the bloodstream for about ten days. Their best-described function is to control the vessel wall for injury, sealing it if necessary in order to prevent uncontrolled blood loss. If uncontrolled thrombus formation occurs, platelets can form large aggregates, big enough to lead to life-threatening vascular occlusions such as in the case of a heart attack or stroke.
Since the year 2002 Professor Nieswandt works in various capacities at the JMU. After studying biology and biochemistry, he completed his doctorate at the University of Regensburg and habilitated in the field of experimental medicine at the University of Witten / Herdecke, Germany. Since 2008, he has held the Chair of Experimental Biomedicine with focus on Vascular Biology and is Head of the Institute for Experimental Biomedicine, which is jointly supported by the University Hospital Würzburg (UKW) and the Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine at the JMU. Since April 2016, he is part of the dual leadership of the Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine.
Further information on the Nieswandt research group on the Rudolf Virchow Center website under Research: www.rudolf-virchow-zentrum.de/forschung/arbeitsgruppen/ag-nieswandt/forschung.html
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Nieswandt (Chair of Experimental Biomedicine with focus on Vascular Biology, Rudolf Virchow Center)
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Susanne Just (Stabsstelle Kommunikation, Universitätsklinikum Würzburg
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Dr. Daniela Diefenbacher (Press Office, Rudolf Virchow Center)
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