Transdisciplinary success

November 27, 2020

From left: Prof. Dr. Andreas Schlitzer, Prof. Dr. Jan Hasenauer and Dr. Thorsten Send © Barbara Frommann / University of Bonn

From left: Prof. Dr. Elvira Mass and Prof. Dr. Dagmar Wachten © Barbara Frommann/ University of Bonn

 

Research across subject boundaries: Researchers from the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation have been awarded a prize by the University's Transdisciplinary Research Area "Life and Health" for two special projects in the life sciences. The steering committee of the research area rewards the two project teams with 50,000 euros each for their creative and innovative approaches. Up to three researchers work together on one project. They come from the disciplines of biology, medicine and mathematics.

"The winning projects reflect the strong potentials for innovation within our research area. Researchers from a variety of disciplines contribute their expertise to jointly investigate biomedical questions whose answers can have a lasting effect on society," emphasizes Prof. Waldemar Kolanus, one of the two speakers of the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Life and Health" and speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation.

About the winning projects:

Artificial intelligence decodes lymph nodes

Immune cells need to be in the right place in the tissue at the right time in order for them to work properly in the body. In lymph nodes, for example, which are highly complex organized units of the immune system, the correct localization of cells ensures that immune reactions are initiated, maintained and terminated appropriately. However, relatively little is known about the regulatory mechanisms that cause the cells to arrange themselves correctly within the tissue. To find out more about this, biologist Prof. Andreas Schlitzer, physician Dr. Thorsten Send from the ENT Clinic of the University Hospital of Bonn and mathematician Prof. Jan Hasenauer work together closely in their project. Their aim is to study the cellular organization in human cervical lymph nodes, both in a healthy state and during inflammation. To do this, they measure which genes in the cell are transcribed from the DNA into so-called messenger RNA at certain points in time, measure the cells using modern methods and make them visible by means of computer-assisted imaging techniques. As not all processes are experimentally accessible, the researchers additionally model the biological processes using artificial intelligence. In this way, they want to create a multimodal map of cervical lymph nodes with cellular resolution.

Jan Hasenauer and Andreas Schlitzer are member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation.

Fat in a Petri dish

In their joint project, the two biologists Prof. Dagmar Wachten and Prof. Elvira Mass want to identify the structure of white adipose tissue, the most common adipose tissue in the body. The tissue consists of different cell types, but little is known about how the individual cell types are organized three-dimensionally in the tissue, and how they interact with each other and thereby support the development and function of the white adipose tissue. In their project, the researchers focus on how macrophages, which are cells of the innate immune system, send signals to the neighboring cell types of white adipose tissue and communicate with them. The researchers aim to decipher this communication during the development of white adipose tissue using various molecular biological methods and to visualize it three-dimensionally with the help of modern imaging techniques. They use genetically modified mice and so-called organoids, which are small pieces of tissue produced in the laboratory. The approach is intended to serve as a basis for identifying the influence of macrophages on the biological system of white adipose tissue. This may contribute to the development of functional organoids from stem cells that resemble human white adipose tissue and thereby enable further investigation.

Elvira Mass and Dagmar Wachten are member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation.