Main Research Areas

The main research area is supported by two central scientific institutions with very different content and methodological orientations, which contribute equally to UDE’s profile formation: the Center for Medical Biotechnology (ZMB) and the Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (ELH).

With the different scientific research areas, each institution covers an important aspect of research in the biomedical sciences and represents a pillar of the research area, which is linked by the research at UK Essen. While the ZMB focuses on research in the three overarching research areas, (i) oncology, (ii) immunology, infectious diseases and transplantation, and (iii) molecular and chemical cell biology, the commonality of the ELH groups is in the development and application of new methods and techniques of ultra-high field MRI (“brain and body UHF MRI”).

Research in these two key scientific institutions under the umbrella of the main research area brings together the sub-areas of the biomed­ical sciences represented at UDE and makes them visible both internally and externally. The know­ledge gained through interdisciplinary research should help with the understanding of the causes of widespread diseases, improve their diagnosis and identify starting points for new therapies.

The networking of representatives from different disciplines and faculties promotes the development of innovations through cooperation and diverse, joint interdisciplinary projects. Current research results can be translated directly into clinical research right up to the implementation of clinical studies.

What the combination of basic research at the ZMB with UHF-MRI at the ELH can achieve was shown by the work of scientists at the Institute of Experimental Immunology and Imaging of the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen, headed by ZMB member Matthias Gunzer – work enabled by the use of cutting-edge imaging techniques. This approach has made it possible to detect a previously overlooked network of over a thousand blood vessels in the bones of mice. This network connects the bone marrow directly with the circulation of the periosteum. It has also been shown that the vast majority of both arterial and venous blood flows through this newly-discovered vascular system. With the help of the ultra-high resolution 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging at the Erwin L. Hahn Institute, signs of these new transcortical vessels have also been detected in some areas of significantly thicker human bones. In the 21st century, new anatomical structures in the human body are still being discovered that are not described in any textbook – thanks to UHF magnetic resonance imaging. Professor Gunzer showed his full commitment by lying down for several hours in the MRI system. In the future, the researchers plan to investigate the role of transcortical vessels in normal bone physiology and in diseases such as osteoporosis or tumours that metastasise in the bone.

Further research highlights in the biomedical sciences are the DFG joint projects with spokespersons or co-spokespersons at UDE:

CRC 1093-1/2 Supramolecular chemistry on proteins

RTG 1739-2 Molecular determinants of the cellular radiation response and their potential for response modulation

RTG 2098 Biomedicines of Sphingolipids

RTG 1949-1/2 Immune Response in Infectious Diseases – Regulation between Innate and Adaptive Immunity

CRC 1280 Extinction Learning

Clinical Research Unit KFO 337 Phenotypic Therapy and Immune Escape in Cancer (PhenoTImE)

In addition, two Emmy Noether Groups funded by the DFG are located in the Biomedical Sciences research area. Barbara Grüner (ZMB) is working intensively on the mechanisms of cancer metastasis and therapeutic intervention, all in the environment of the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) at the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen at the University Hospital Essen (UK Essen). Peter Koopmans (ELH), on the other hand, wants to improve the spatial detail resolution in neuroimaging (fMRI & DWI) and develop a layer-specific analysis tool and signal models. The field of pain imaging serves as the evidential basis for his work, in which he examines why we feel some types of pain immediately, but consciously ignore or suppress others for a long time. Here, the layers of the cerebral cortex should provide insight into the processes of information processing in the brain and spinal cord.

In 2019, with Doris Hellerschmied (Mechanistic Cell Biology), an excellent young scientist was called to the ZMB. She is one of six Sofia Kovalevskaya-Winners of the 2019 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and now has her own research group at the UDE.

In the future, new opportunities for cooperation with other UDE research areas are seen in the colaboration with other UDE departments. Cooperation in the field of natural substance extraction and use for the modulation of biologic­al systems could develop in the future with the Urban Systems main research area and the supporting institution ZWU – Centre for Water and Environmental Research. The Nanosciences main research area, together with the supporting institution CENIDE – Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen, offers further cooperation possibilities for the NanoBioMaterials research area, in which members of the Biomedical Sciences main research area are already represented. An initial cooperation has already been initiated with the lead market project “SYNGOPRO – Synergistic effects of gold nanoparticles and proton radiation in the treatment of childhood brain tumours”, which was successfully approved in May 2018.