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ImmunoSensation - the immune sensory system

"Open doors" at the Institute of Structural Biology

October 05, 2021


TV show “Sendung mit der Maus” visits the lab of Prof. Matthias Geyer, Member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2

It all started with a curious orange mouse in the TV children’s program “Sendung mit der Maus”, explaining how toothpaste is produced, why leaves change color in fall and for which reason the sky is blue. Ten years ago, in 2011, the curiosity of children and parents to look behind doors that usually remain closed to the public resulted in a campaign of “open doors with the mouse”. Once every year, institutes, laboratories and companies offer visits on-sight, explain what their daily work is all about and how they aim to shape the future.


Patent-Prize awarded for programing of stem cells into Photoreceptors

October 04, 2021


Discovery and utilization of three different transcription factors enables the directed differentiation of human stem cells into photoreceptors

Prof. Volker Busskamp, Member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2, is awarded with the Patent-Prize of the German Ophthalmological Society for his work on photoreceptors. The Biotechnologist and his team developed a technology, which allows the rapid programming of human stem cells to become photoreceptors. The resulting cells are used in retinal research and shall serve in clinical application to treat blindness in the near future.


Immune cells in the brain share the work

September 22, 2021


Microglial cells join together to better cope with threats

To break down toxic proteins more quickly, immune cells in the brain can join together to form networks when needed. This is shown by a joint study of the University of Bonn, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the Institut François Jacob in France. However, in certain mutations that can cause Parkinson's disease, this cooperation is impaired. The findings are published in the renowned journal Cell.


'Falling Walls' Award for Nanobodies targeting Corona virus

September 15, 2021


Cluster Member Florian Schmidt receives ‘Falling Walls’ award in the category Life Sciences for the development of a novel drug for Covid-19 therapy

In early 2020, Florian Schmidt and Paul-Albert König at the University Hospital Bonn and an international team of researchers developed a special kind of antibody against SARS-CoV-2 with strong potential for therapeutic use. Today, the cluster scientists and their international team are recognized for their groundbreaking success. A success that would not have been possible without the help of an alpaca and a llama


Impaired function of white blood cells in severe COVID-19 courses

September 13, 2021


Members of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2 and a team of international scientists find persistent dysfunction of Natural Killer cells in severe COVID-19 courses

The acute respiratory syndrome COVID-19, caused by coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in late 2019. Since then, a comprehensive understanding of both the virus itself and the respective host immune-response has rapidly been gained. Recent studies suggest a specific form of white immune cells, natural killer (NK) cells, to play a crucial role in the early antiviral immune response. But to what extend do NK cells contribute to the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 infections? In a multicenter study, Scientists from the Cluster of Excellence Immunosensation2, located at the University Hospital Bonn and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), together with an international team, have now been able to investigate the role of NK cells in the progression of COVID-19 in detail.


How danger signaling is amplified in Influenza A-virus infected cells

September 03, 2021


Young research goup around Cluster Member Stephanie Jung shows how dnger signaling is amplified in Influenza A-virus infected cells.

Influenza virus-induced acute respiratory infections occur in all parts of the world and represent a constant disease-burden. While the seasonal epidemic outbreaks are caused by Influenza-subtypes A and B, only Influenza-A strains are reported to have caused pandemic spreads. Overall, Influenza-A infections account for 250,000 to 300,000 deaths p.a.

To protect us from microbial threats, the innate immune system provides several immune sensing receptors. These recognize foreign microbial molecules and induce an immunological response. RNA-viruses like Influenza-A and Hepatitis-C are detected by the intracellular receptor RIG-I (retinoic acid inducible gene I). RIG-I binds to double-stranded viral RNA and hairpin structures of viral genomes. Upon activation, the receptor multimerizes and ultimately induces the cellular release of antiviral cytokines.


Mathematics meets Life Sciences - Joint symposium

September 01, 2021


The tremendous advances made in experimental life sciences in recent years provide a wealth of data on how organisms function. To gain biomedical knowledge from these data, both mathematical modeling and numerical analysis techniques in conjunction with experimental data are essential. At a joint symposium of the Clusters of Excellence Hausdorff Center for Mathematics and ImmunoSensation2 as well as the Transdisciplinary Research Areas "Modelling" and "Life and Health" of the University of Bonn, the professors working at the interfaces and their colleagues presented their research and invited to participate.


What factors impact the spread of viruses?

August 23, 2021


German Research Foundation funds transdisciplinary project by researchers at the University of Bonn with 270,000 euros.

Many different factors are responsible for the spread of infectious diseases. What is known is that the spread process depends essentially on the infectiousness of the pathogen and the immune response of the host, but also on human behavior. This relates, for example, to the extent to which distance regulations are observed. Less often considered, however, is the fact that the factors and their influence can vary greatly between groups of people - both at the biomedical and socioeconomic levels. Mathematicians, physicians and economists now want to take a closer look at this so-called inter-individual variability in a joint collaboration project of the University of Bonn and the University Hospital Munich. The goal is to determine new factors that are relevant for the transmission or containment of SARS-CoV-2 viruses. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project with several hundred thousand euros, of which 270,000 euros will go to Bonn.


Exciting science in the center of Cologne

August 13, 2021


On August 21, female scientists from the universities of Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf will talk at the Rudolfplatz
Think "outside the box" is often the phrase used to describe leaving your old thinking habits behind and getting creative. This is exactly what scientists from the universities of Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf will be doing on August 21, starting at 2 p.m. on Cologne's Rudolfplatz: Standing on a "soap box," they want to inspire the general public with their research topics. They have previously learned in a workshop how to do this without technical aids, PowerPoint presentations or lecture halls. All citizens are invited to learn about exciting science from the world of immunology, aging and plant research in a relaxed atmosphere. The lectures will be held mostly in German and partly in English. Participation is free of charge.


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 in the millions 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. "