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ImmunoSensation - the immune sensory system

Novel method for fast 3D microscopy

July 28, 2021


A team of scientists from the University of Bonn and the research center caesar develop a method to observe fast movements in 3D
In the past, many discoveries have been made because better, more accurate measurement methods have become available, making it possible to obtain data from previously unexplored phenomena. For example, high-resolution microscopy has begun to dramatically change our perspectives of cell function and dynamics. Researchers at the ImmunoSensation2 Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bonn, the University Hospital and the research center caesar have now develop a method that allows using multi-focal images to reconstruct the movement of fast biological processes in 3D. The study has been recently published in the journal Nature Communications.


Funding to combat river blindness

July 19, 2021


University of Bonn receives grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for artificial intelligence project
The Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology at the University of Bonn is the recipient of a $1.48 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together with the international IT consultancy Capgemini and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) in Geneva, researchers are developing technology to better combat river blindness, which is caused by parasitic worms. Artificial intelligence will be used to machine-read sections of worm nodules in tissue, enabling drug testing to be standardized and significantly accelerated.


New corona mass test developed by Cluster member

July 02, 2021


Cluster member Jonathan Schmid-Burgk and colleagues developed a new corona test that is up to 100 times more sensitive than rapid antigen tests. The "LAMP-Seq" test is based on sequencing technology and can analyze a large number of swabs simultaneously with similar high sensitivity to the commonly used qPCR test. The innovative method offers great potential, especially for systematic testing in day care centers, schools or companies. The results of the study on the new Corona test have been published in the renowned journal "Nature Biotechnology". WDR Lokalzeit from Bonn also reported about this new Corona test and talked to the scientists involved.


AI with swarm intelligence

May 26, 2021


Novel technology for cooperative analysis of big data
Communities benefit from sharing knowledge and experience among their members. Following a similar principle - called "swarm learning" - an international research team has trained artificial intelligence algorithms to detect blood cancer, lung diseases and COVID-19 in data stored in a decentralized fashion.
Cluster member Prof. Joachim Schultze from the DZNE and LIMES Institute is lead author of this study.
This approach has advantage over conventional methods since it inherently provides privacy preservation technologies, which facilitates cross-site analysis of scientific data. Swarm learning could thus significantly promote and accelerate collaboration and information exchange in research, especially in the field of medicine. Experts from the DZNE, the University of Bonn, the information technology company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and other research institutions report on this in the scientific journal "Nature".
Analyzing the resulting volumes of information - known as "big data" - is considered a key to better treatment options. "Medical research data are a treasure. They can play a decisive role in developing personalized therapies that are tailored to each individual more precisely than conventional treatments," said Joachim Schultze, Director of Systems Medicine at the DZNE and professor at the Life & Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) at the University of Bonn.
"It's critical for science to be able to use such data as comprehensively and from as many sources as possible." However, the exchange of medical research data across different locations or even between countries is subject to data protection and data sovereignty regulations. In practice, these requirements can usually only be implemented with significant effort. In addition, there are technical barriers: For example, when huge amounts of data have to be transferred digitally, data lines can quickly reach their performance limits. In view of these conditions, many medical studies are locally confined and cannot utilize data that is available elsewhere.
In light of this, a research collaboration led by Joachim Schultze tested a novel approach for evaluating research data stored in a decentralized fashion. The basis for this was the still young "Swarm Learning" technology developed by HPE. In addition to the IT company, numerous research institutions from Greece, the Netherlands and Germany - including members of the "German COVID-19 OMICS Initiative" (DeCOI) - participated in this study.
Only algorithms and parameters are shared - in a sense, lessons learned. "Swarm Learning fulfills the requirements of data protection in a natural way," Joachim Schultze emphasized. Unlike "federated learning", in which the data also remains locally, there is no centralized command center, the Bonn scientist explained. "Swarm Learning happens in a cooperative way based on rules that all partners have agreed on in advance. This set of rules is captured in a blockchain."
The researchers are now providing practical proof of this approach through the analysis of X-ray images of the lungs and of transcriptomes: The latter are data on the gene activity of cells. In the current study, the focus was specifically on immune cells circulating in the blood - in other words, white blood cells. "Data on the gene activity of blood cells are like a molecular fingerprint. They hold important information about how the organism reacts to a disease," Schultze said. "Transcriptomes are available in large numbers just like X-ray images, and they are highly complex. This is exactly the kind of information you need for artificial intelligence analysis. Such data is perfect for testing Swarm Learning."
The research team addressed a total of four infectious and non-infectious diseases: two variants of blood cancer (acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia), as well as tuberculosis and COVID-19. The data included a total of more than 16,000 transcriptomes.
The current study was just a test run. In the future, we intend to apply this technology to Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases," Schultze said. "Swarm Learning has the potential to be a real game changer and could help make the wealth of experience in medicine more accessible worldwide. Not only research institutions but also hospitals, for example, could join together to form such swarms and thus share information for mutual benefit."


Collaborative research center being renewed

May 26, 2021


German Research Foundation funds CRC "Synaptic Micronetworks in Health and Disease"  for another four years
Member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation Prof. Heinz Beck is spokesperson of the recently renewed CRC.
The mammalian brain is extraordinarily complex - it is estimated to consist of around 100 billion nerve cells. Each of these cells is linked via synapses to tens of thousands of other brain cells. How do the elements of such a complex network work together to produce behavior? How do the networks change as a result of disease? For eight years, scientists have been investigating these and other questions in the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1089 "Synaptic Micronetworks in Health and Disease" at the University of Bonn. With great success: The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the interdisciplinary network for another four years. The requested funding amount is around 11.1 million euros. Partners are the caesar research center in the Max Planck Society and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn.
The researchers in the interdisciplinary CRC 1089 aim to make a significant contribution to a better understanding of how the brain works. However, a particular goal is also to investigate brain dysfunction in two of the most common neurological diseases: Epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. The speaker of the Collaborative Research Center is the neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Heinz Beck, head of the Institute for Experimental Epileptology and Cognition Research at the University and the University Hospital of Bonn and a member of the ImmunoSensation2 Cluster of Excellence. Vice speaker is the biochemist Prof. Dr. Susanne Schoch McGovern from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Bonn.
Prof. Dr. Heinz Beck, Speaker
Institute for Experimental Epileptology and Cognitive Research, University of Bonn, University Hospital Bonn
Phone: +49 228 6885270

Prof. Dr. Susanne Schoch McGovern, Vice Speaker
Institute of Neuropathology, University of Bonn, University Hospital Bonn
Phone: +49 228 28719109


Largest genetic study to date on bipolar disorder

May 18, 2021


In cooperation with the University of Bonn, researchers studied a total of 400,000 people
Genetic factors contribute significantly to the development of bipolar disorder. The probably largest analysis to date on the hereditary factors involved has now been published. More than 40,000 affected individuals and 370,000 controls were included in the study; some 320 researchers around the globe were involved. Lead partners for the project included the Icahn School of Medicine, New York, the University of Oslo and the University Hospital Bonn. The results not only provide new insights into the genetic basis of the disease, but also into possible risk factors in living conditions or behavior. They are published in the journal "Nature Genetics".
The name "bipolar disorder" is not a coincidence: The mood of those affected oscillates between two extremes. Sometimes they are so depressed for weeks that they barely manage to go about their daily activities. At other times, there are phases when they feel euphoric and full of energy, frantically pursuing their projects.
Risk factors include early childhood traumas such as abuse or the loss of a parent, but also, for example, a stressful lifestyle or the use of certain drugs. To a large extent, however, bipolar disorder is a matter of genes: Experts estimate the contribution of genetic makeup at 60 to 85 percent. Hundreds of genes are probably involved.
DNA lexicon compared at hundreds of thousands of sites
This greatly improves the understanding of the genetic basis. The international consortium searched the DNA of more than 400,000 participants for abnormalities. By comparing the DNA of their subjects at many hundreds of thousands of sites that occur variably in the population, they were able to identify genetic regions that are thought to contribute to the disease. "In this way, we identified 64 gene loci associated with bipolar disorder," explains Prof. Dr. Markus Nöthen, head of the Institute of Human Genetics and meme of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2. "33 of them were previously unknown." The hits thus also provide clues to new therapeutic approaches.


Digital Day of Immunology 2021

April 29, 2021


Once again this year, the ImmunoSensation Cluster of Excellence is celebrating the Day of Immunolgy, which takes place worldwide on April 29, with a digital event.
On April 24th (Saturday) we will opened the world of immunology to young and old with various lectures and live experiments. The focus was on the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and how it affects the immune system.
Kids and their parents participated in a live experiment on how to extract DNA from banana performed from Dr. Gregor Hagelüken. The TRR 259 Aortic Disease performed a live tour through one of their laboratories explaining how and what kind of research is conducted here.
In a following section various researchers from our Cluster of Excellence explained the most up-to-date results concering research in the field of SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Paul Albert König and Dr. Florian Schmidt, Institute for Innate Immunity gave a talk on Promising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 Nanobodies as a new therapy. How the molecular fingerprint of diseases can be deciphered with the latest technology using the example of SARS-CoV-2 was presented by Dr. Anna Aschenbrenner, Dr. Thomas Ulas and Prof. Dr. Joachim Schultze from the LIMES Institute & DZNE. 
The final slot in our program was dedicated to questions participants had concerning SARS-CoV-2 and the immune system. Our members Prof. Irmgard Förster (LIMES Institute), Prof. Gunther Hartmann (Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Chemistry) and Prof. Eicke Latz answered all the open questions.
Throughout the program more then 350 participants listend and discussed recent science with us and asked lots of interesting questions.
The Day of Immunology 2021 was organized together with the TRR 259 Aortic Disease and TRR 237 Nucleic Acid Sensing.


Successful Girls' Day 2021

April 23, 2021


Girls' Day is a once a year action day that aims to motivate girls and women to take up technical and scientific professions.
Since 2014 we participate in this event. This year due to Corona restrictions we held our Girls' Day in a digital way.
12 girls isolated DNA from a banana, visited one on our labs with a live tour online and checked the growth of bacteria from different places in their homes.
The lab of Katrin Paeschke supported the Girls' Day and helped giving insights to the young girls.


Salt in our body and in our immune system

April 21, 2021


How is salt acting on our body and immune system?

Our member Prof. Christian Kurts explains these topics from minute 17:30 on.


Opening BMZII

April 18, 2021


The "Biomedical Center II" on the Venusberg campus in Bonn is ready! The new building for excellent biomedical research, which began in 2017, has now been inaugurated with an event in hybrid format.
Economics and Innovation Minister Prof. Pinkwart said in his keynote address: "The inauguration of the modern biomedical campus with digital technology is a milestone that will be both recognition and incentive for the Bonn University Hospital. The campus is an expression of the previous success and opens - physically and as an innovation environment - new spaces for excellent research."
Rector Prof. Hoch emphasized: "In the global competition for the best minds, we need optimal and future-oriented infrastructures for our excellent science. On behalf of the University of Bonn, I would like to thank the state government very much for their great support in the new building of the BMZ II, which will enable our medical faculty and the university clinic to continue doing research and teaching at the highest level."
The users of BMZ II are primarily 150 employees from three institutes from the ImmunoSensation2 excellence cluster at the University of Bonn under the leadership of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize winners, Prof. Christian Kurts, Institute for Experimental Immunology, Prof. Gunter Hartmann, Institute for Clinical chemistry and clinical pharmacology, and Prof. Eicke Latz, Institute for Innate Immunology.
Prof. Bernd Weber, Dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn, explained: "As one of six clusters of excellence, the ImmunoSensation2 association, which has existed since 2012, received funding approval for a further funding period in 2018. As part of the future concept of the University of Bonn, six transdisciplinary research areas were set up, including the area "Life and Health", in which researchers from various disciplines work on overarching issues. "
The concept of the BMZ II is that different users share technical equipment for their scientific work and support each other in so-called core facilities. This collaboration is also promoted by large-scale laboratories, all of which are approved for genetic engineering work. Zones for informal meetings of researchers outside the laboratory areas are also a characteristic of the new BMZ II. The building has four full floors with conference and seminar rooms on almost 9,000 square meters of floor space. The usable area of ​​5,000 square meters is supplemented by 4,000 square meters of laboratory space and 1,000 square meters of office space.


Success in the "Advanced Clinician Scientist" proposal

March 29, 2021


Researching medical professionals receive funding from the BMBF
The Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn and the University Hospital Bonn (UKB) will be in the next five years part of the tender "Advanced Clinician Scientist" (ACS) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the areas of immunopathogenesis and organ dysfunction as well as brain and neurodegeneration. The Medical Faculty and the UKB will receive around 9,000,000 euros for the project, with which the "ACCENT" (Advanced Clinician Scientist Program Bonn) will be set up. The innovative concept supports research specialists with a focus on immunology, neurosciences, genetics and epidemiology as well as cardiovascular diseases and oncology. For this purpose, in addition to their clinical work, they are closely linked to research associations such as Collaborative Research Centers and the ImmunoSensation² cluster of excellence through co-affiliation with research institutes.
The aim of the BMBF initiative is to increase career prospects in research and health care through the funding of Advanced Clinician Scientists (ACS) positions in university medicine throughout Germany. To this end, 12 ACS positions will be created in Bonn over the next three years. In addition, two other positions in Bonn are financed by the ImmunoSsensation² excellence cluster. In addition to interdisciplinary work and individual offers in the areas of coaching, mentoring and management training, ACCENT also focuses on equal opportunities and the compatibility of work and family. This ensures, among other things, that at least 50 percent of the participants are female.
Co-spokeswoman Prof. Annkristin Heine and member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation says: "For the participating physicians, our program represents a great opportunity to both sharpen their scientific profile and their clinical goals, thanks to the 50 percent exemption from clinical work in favor of research follow. Support with administrative tasks, cooperation with basic science institutes and structured career development are specifically promoted. "


Spring Newsletter Out

March 08, 2021


Dear ImmunoSensation Friends,
our first Newsletter this year is out for you to read.
You can find lots of information regarding new members, funding success and past events.
Download the Newsletter Edition here.


Postdoc Innovation Fund Symposium

February 28, 2021


In 2020 we invited all postdoctoral researchers who work in the group of an ImmunoSensation member and do not yet lead an independent research group to apply for an open call of an ImmunoSensation Postdoc Innovation Fund.
We funded up to 10.000 Euro for own innovative ideas, including, but not limited to:
  • new research topics
  • joint projects between two or more different groups
  • interdisciplinary projects
  • international collaborations
  • etablishment of new networks

The funding period was from July 1st 2020 until December 31st 2020.
This Friday, February 26th 2021, we invited all awardees to present their results, which they obtained during the funding period.
21 projects were funded in the ImmunoSensation PostDoc Innovation Fund and presented during the symposium.
Lots of great findings and results were presented and during break out sessions lively discussion took place.
We thank all awardees and atendees for making this online symposium such a great success.


Less inflammation with a traditional diet

February 12, 2021


Urban Tanzanians have a more activated immune system compared to their rural counterparts. The difference in diet appears to explain this difference: in the cities, people eat a more western style diet, while in rural areas a traditional diet is more common. A team of researchers from Radboud


Prestigious award for Elvira Mass

January 27, 2021


Insights into organ development: Elvira Mass from the University of Bonn receives Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers
The course for organ health is set in the early embryo. For this finding, Prof. Elvira Mass, a scientist from the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation, receives the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers, which is endowed with 60,000 euros. In her research, she showed that specialized immune cells from the yolk sac accompany organ development and contribute to maintaining their health throughout life.
For Elvira Mass, impaired function of these immune cells might cause many diseases. Once a year, the Paul Ehrlich Foundation honors a young scientist for outstanding achievements in biomedicine. The prestigious prize is named after the physician and researcher Paul Ehrlich († August 1915) and the chemist Ludwig Darmstaedter († October 1927). This year, the choice fell on developmental biologist Prof. Elvira Mass from the Life and Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) at the University of Bonn. "Elvira Mass's research has provided a completely new perspective on the role of cells of the innate immune system regulating embryonic development of tissues and organs," says Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn and supervisor of the doctoral thesis of Elvira Mass. "Her outstanding achievement is also reflected by fact that she has now won two of the most prestigious awards for junior researchers in Germany within a year. This is something she can be very proud of, and of course the University of Bonn as well."
Last year, Elvira Mass had already been awarded the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the German Research Foundation. "With her high-level scientific work, Elvira has particularly enriched our understanding of the role of macrophages in brain development and function," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Waldemar Kolanus, Managing Director of the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn. "Through skill and commitment, she very quickly established a high reputation in the life science scene at the University of Bonn, thus demonstrating real leadership qualities in her young years. We at the LIMES Institute congratulate her on this renewed, fantastic award," he says.
In the future, Mass will investigate which environmental factors change the epigenetic imprinting of the yolk sac-derived tissue-resident macrophages and how these changes affect the health of organs. To this end, she will use a recently awarded "Starting Grant" from the European Research Council (1.5 million euros in funding) to study, among other things, the influence of nanoplastics on macrophages.


ImmunoSensation scientist discover differences in fat metabolism

January 26, 2021


The liver processes coconut oil differently than rapeseed oil
Coconut oil has increasingly found its way into German kitchens in recent years, although its alleged health benefits are controversial. Scientists at the University of Bonn from the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation have now been able to show how it is metabolized in the liver. Their findings could also have implications for the treatment of certain diarrheal diseases. The results are published in the journal Molecular Metabolism.
Coconut oil differs from rapeseed or olive oil in the fatty acids it contains. Fatty acids consist of carbon atoms bonded together, usually 18 in number. In coconut oil, however, most of these chains are much shorter and contain only 8 to 12 carbon atoms. In the liver, these medium-chain fatty acids are partly converted into storage fats (triglycerides). Exactly how this happens was largely unknown until now. The new study now sheds light on this: "There are two enzymes in the liver for storage fat synthesis, DGAT1 and DGAT2," explains Dr. Klaus Wunderling of the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn. "We have now seen in mouse liver cells that DGAT1 processes mainly medium-chain fatty acids and DGAT2 processes long-chain ones."
"The enzymes therefore seem to prefer different chain lengths," concludes Prof. Dr. Christoph Thiele of the LIMES Institute, who led the study and is also a member of the Cluster of Excellence Immunosensation. Surprising side effect whether fatty acids in the liver are used at all to build up storage fat depends on the current energy requirement. When the body needs a lot of energy at a particular moment, the so-called beta oxidation is fired up - the fatty acids are "burned" straight away, so to speak. Medically, this metabolic pathway is of great interest. In diabetes, for instance, it might be useful to reduce beta-oxidation. 
Also interesting is a finding published a few years ago by Austrian and Dutch scientists: They had studied patients suffering from chronic diarrheal diseases. In 20 of them, they found alterations in the DGAT1 gene that rendered it nonfunctional. "We now want to find out whether the impaired processing of medium-chain fatty acids is responsible for the digestive complaints," says Wunderling. This is because the DGAT1 enzyme is active not only in the liver but also in the intestine. Perhaps this is why its disorder causes diarrhea when sufferers consume medium-chain fatty acids.
Funding: The study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the Excellence Strategy. It additionally received funding from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) of the Republic of Austria.


School Project about Healthy Food and the Immune System

January 21, 2021


Learning about nutrition in a school podcast
Young researchers Dr. Anette Christ and Dr. Elisabeth Jurack at the University of Bonn receive 10,000 euros from the BMBF and "Wissenschaft im Dialog" for their idea: How do we eat in the 21st century?
Bonn schoolchildren will soon be able to deal with this question together with scientists in a podcast. The biologists Dr. Anette Christ and Dr. Elisabeth Jurack from the University of Bonn impressed with their communication idea in the Germany-wide university competition "Show your research!" And are among the ten winning teams who will each receive 10,000 euros for implementing their ideas.
The aim of the competition launched by the "Science in Dialogue" initiative this year is to promote projects that deal with dwindling resources, environmental pollution and the climate crisis and to enter into dialogue with the public. The competition is thematically embedded in the Science Year 2020 | 21 - Bioeconomy. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports the project.
In their now award-winning project "Nutrition in a School Podcast", Dr. Anette Christ and Dr. Elisabeth Jurack from the Cluster of Excellence "ImmunoSensation2" at the University of Bonn are developing a podcast together with pupils from the Liebfrauen School in Bonn, in which the participants learn how the bioeconomy and a healthy diet are related. The young people don't keep their knowledge to themselves, but share it in eight self-produced podcast episodes on podcast platforms such as or Spotify.


Immune system mechanism against filarial larvae

January 20, 2021


Researchers at the University of Bonn investigate immune system mechanism against filarial larvae Filariae, slender but sometimes up to 70 centimeters long nematodes, can set up residence in their host quite tenaciously and cause serious infectious diseases in the tropics. The tiny larvae of the


COVID-19 has multiple faces

January 20, 2021


ImmunoSensation scientists present latest findings on the coronavirus in "Genome Medicine"
According to current studies, the COVID-19 disease which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus comprises at least five different variants. These differ in how the immune system responds to the infection. Researchers from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the University of Bonn, together with other experts from Germany, Greece and the Netherlands, present these findings in the scientific journal "Genome Medicine".
Their results may help to improve the treatment of the disease. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 can manifest in different ways: Many of those affected do not even seem to notice the presence of the virus in their bodies. In other cases, the effects can include flu-like symptoms and neurological disorders to severe and even life-threatening pneumonia. "The classification of COVID-19 into mild and severe courses falls short. The disease is much more diverse, and for each affected person, one certainly would want a therapy that is tailored to fit. What helps one person may be ineffective for another," said Dr. Anna Aschenbrenner, a scientist of the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn and the DZNE's Systems Medicine division. "In this respect, it is obvious to want to understand what underlies these differences. If we can pin them down to scientific criteria and categorize patients accordingly, this increases the chances of effective treatment. We therefore took a look at the immune system. Because many studies are indicating that its response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 plays a crucial role in the course of COVID-19," said Aschenbrenner, who is a member of the "ImmunoSensation2" Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bonn.
Five Manifestations
"First of all, it is important to note that the expression patterns of immune cells in people with COVID-19 differ fundamentally from those in healthy individuals. The gene activity we can detect in the blood is strongly altered. But there are also striking differences among patients. On this basis, we have identified five different groups. We refer to them as molecular phenotypes," said Dr. Thomas Ulas, an expert in bioinformatics at the DZNE. "Two of them represent severe disease courses. The others have more moderate symptoms." The classification was based solely on transcriptome data. Only in retrospect, molecular phenotypes were matched to registered clinical courses.
COVID-19 Is Different
The researchers used their findings to compare COVID-19 with other diseases and also with data from healthy individuals. For this purpose, they were able to draw on data from the "Rhineland Study" - a population study conducted by the DZNE in the Bonn area - as well as on data from scientific databases. For the comparison, a large spectrum of diseases was considered: including viral infections such as influenza, infections with HIV and Zika, bacterial infections such as tuberculosis and bacterial sepsis, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. "All five COVID-19 phenotypes are different from the other diseases we studied," Ulas said, summing up the findings. "Apparently, COVID-19 has a unique biology that is reflected in the gene activity of immune cells in the blood. Insofar, expression analysis could be used to diagnose COVID-19. This would be an alternative or complement to current methods."


New promising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2

January 13, 2021


Cluster member Florian I. Schmidt together with Paul-Albert König, head of the Nanobody Core Facility and an international team have identified and further developed novel antibody fragments against the SARS coronavirus-2.
These "nanobodies" are much smaller than the classic antibodies used to treat SARS-CoV-2 infections, for example. They therefore penetrate the tissue better and can be produced more easily in larger quantities. The researchers at the University Hospital Bonn have also combined the nanobodies into potentially particularly effective molecules. These attack different parts of the virus simultaneously. The approach could prevent the pathogen from evading the active agent through mutations. The results are published in the journal Science.
"We focus on another group of molecules, the nanobodies," explains Dr. Florian Schmidt, who heads an Emmy Noether group on this promising new field of research at the University of Bonn's Institute of Innate Immunity. "Nanobodies are antibody fragments that are so simple that they can be produced by bacteria or yeast, which is less expensive."
The researchers also exploit another major advantage of nanobodies over antibodies: Their simple structure allows straight forward combinations to form molecules that can be several hundred times more effective. "We have fused two nanobodies that target different parts of the spike protein," explains König. "This variant was highly effective in cell culture. Furthermore, we were able to show that this drastically reduces the probability of the virus to become resistant to the active agent through escape mutations." The researchers are convinced that the molecules may be developed into a novel and promising therapeutic option.
Dioscure Therapeutics, a spin-off of the University of Bonn, will test the nanobodies in clinical studies. The success of the project is mainly based on the excellent cooperation of the participating research groups at the University with national and international cooperation partners, emphasizes Florian Schmidt.