3 Million Euro for the joint research project iCARE
The joint research project iCARE, which is funded by the BMBF for a period of three years, officially started on April 1, 2017. The consortium has been awarded a grant of more than 3 million Euro and is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Martin. The aim of the joint project is to prepare the first worldwide clinical application of iPSC-based heart repair. Detailed information can be found here on the project website.
20 years of experimental research in HTTG and LEBAO
- From organ transplantation to (bio)artificial organ replacement -
Since under the direction of Hans Georg Borst, the Department of Cardiothoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery (HTTG) of the Hannover Medical School has been famous for being one of the leading surgical clinics in Europe. In 1996, leadership was taken over by Prof. Dr. Axel Haverich and since then both the clinical and scientific research aspects have been further advanced and as a result, the entire department is currently counted among the strongest research surgical clinics worldwide. The broad range of experimental research is especially striking. These achievements, as well as the close bond between application-driven basic research and clinical practice, are the result of the 2007 newly introduced dual leadership concept, including a clinical director (Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. A. Haverich) and a research director (Prof. Dr. rer. nat. U. Martin). This impressive development is most certainly also a result of the foundation of the LEBAO in 1996, based on funding from the prestigious Leibniz prize by the DFG, which was awarded to Prof. Haverich due to his achievements for the conservation of lung donations.
Together with invited guests, on 18 November 2016, we will look back on 20 years of very successful surgical research within the HTTG.
4th Annual GSCN Conference: Evening Panel Debate on Modern Cell Therapies
Stem cells and their potential for application in modern cell therapies are of growing interest, not only for the scientific community, such as the participants at the 4th Annual Conference of the German Stem Cell Network, but also for patients and the general public. This interest is reflected in the many questions surrounding the topic of cell therapies, such as "Can these therapies offer an alternative to organ transplantation?", "How is research using patient stem cells regulated in terms of ethics and the law?", "Why does it take so long for stem cell therapies to become available for use in the clinic?". These and other questions were the subject of an expert panel debate organised by Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung at the Anzeiger Hochhaus on 14th September 2016, at which Prof. Dr. Axel Haverich (HTTG, MHH), Prof. Dr. Ulrich Martin (LEBAO), Prof. Dr. Michael Manns (Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, MHH) and Prof. Dr. Nils Hoppe (Center for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences, LUH) discussed the various opportunities and limitations to stem cell therapies with a mixed audience of scientists and the general public. A short film on the relevant work of each of the panel members was shown as an introduction to the topic with the ensuing discussion moderated by Dr. Stefanie Seltmann from the German Cancer Research Center. Despite the warm weather being more conducive to an evening in the beer garden than an indoor debate, the event drew a large number of attendees who, together with the expert panel, contributed to an evening of interesting and lively discussions.
4th International GSCN Annual Conference
The 4th International GSCN Annual Conference was hosted this year by Hannover Medical School and the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH and chaired by the current GSCN President, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Martin. The conference took place from 12-14 September 2016 and featured a range of exciting lectures and poster presentations on stem cell-related topics, including reprogramming, regenerative therapies, hematopoietic stem cells, drug development and gene therapy, to name but a few.
The conference participants, over 400 in total, had ample opportunity for networking and could also learn more about the latest products and technologies from the 35 companies attending the event. A major highlight of the three day event was the conference party held at Yukon Bay in Hannover Zoo on Tuesday evening with wonderful summer weather rounding off proceedings perfectly.
GSCN President Professor Martin was very pleased with the Hannover edition of the annual conference: "All in all an extremely successful event". Further information on the 4th Annual Conference can be found on the GSCN website. Details are also available on the upcoming 5th Annual Conference which will take place from 11-13 September in Jena.
Successful Funding Application for the Clinical Research Unit 311
The excitement was palpable in early July 2016 when the news arrived that the German Science Foundation (DFG) had approved the funding application for the Clinical Research Unit (KFO 311) on "(Pre-) terminal cardiac and pulmonary failure: mechanical relief and repair". The project will run for a period of three years, beginning October 2016. Several group leaders from LEBAO, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Martin, PD. Dr. Ina Gruh and Dr. Robert Zweigerdt, are heading up sub-projects within the Clinical Research Unit. Further information on KFO 311 is available here.
1.2 Million Euro for the INSTINCT project
Together with an international consortium from Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada, Professor Ulrich Martin, head of LEBAO, has been awarded a grant of 1.2 Million Euro by the E-Rare ERA-NET programme for a stem cell based project targeting rare diseases. The INSTINCT project will investigate the use of induced pluripotent stem cells to identify novel drug combinations for the treatment of cystic fibrosis-based lung and liver diseases and will run from June 2016 for a period of three years. Detailed information can be found here on the project website.
“Cardiac differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells in scalable suspension culture”, Nature Protocols 2015
In August 2015, five LEBAO scientists conjointly released a publication in the renowned journal Nature Protocols (impact factor 2015: 9,646). Cardiomyocytes based on human pluripotent stem cells are not only a promising potential cell source for regenerative therapies but also for the search for novel drugs as well as the development of disease models. For these purposes, appropriate amounts of cells are required. The two first authors Christina Kropp and Henning Kempf have taken up this mission: The scientists developed a protocol based on suspension cultures that allows for an upscaling of cardiomyocyte production.
Kempf, H.*, Kropp, C.*, Olmer, R., Martin, U., and Zweigerdt, R. 2015. Cardiac differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells in scalable suspension culture. Nature Protocols 10, no. 9:1345. *Authors contributed equally.
In August 2015, the successful application of the proposal TECHNOBEAT, coordinated by Dr. Robert Zweigerdt, was announced. In a two-stage application process the international project prevailed against numerous competitive projects and will be funded with nearly 6 Mio € for 4 years by the EU Framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020. Start of the project is 1 January 2016. Here you can find further information on the project.
Funding of research and development in Georgia
Applied research and development in the field of life sciences, including molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases, are currently underdeveloped in Georgia, and capacity development in this area is hampered by the lack of adequately trained experts in modern biomedical technologies. Despite reasonably good standards in theoretical teaching, academic education in biomedical sciences is underdeveloped in Georgia. Although it is recognized that practical training towards developing analytical skills and undertaking autonomous independent research activities is of the utmost importance for young researchers in the life sciences, there are as yet no state-of-the-art laboratories available for student training in the life sciences and biotechnology in Georgia.
Owing to the successful application by Prof. Dr. Martin, a research project addressing these shortcomings is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation since the end of 2015. The Sokhumi State University (SSU) in Tbilisi aims at developing a new focus in education and research and at allowing for state-of-the-art practical training in life sciences and biotechnology. The pilot project is supposed to remedy the problem of deficient practical laboratory education, which is widespread in Eastern Europe as well as many other developing and newly industrializing countries. The SSU recently founded the Center for Molecular Diagnostics and Biotechnology (CMDB) and provided newly renovated office and laboratory space for this center. Additional laboratory equipment will be purchased with the budget of the project.
Building on these developments, the objective of the current proposal is the establishment of a new training course in “Molecular Methods in Biomedical Sciences”, which will be offered to selected students of biology and medicine. This course will comprise theoretical and practical education and site visits by international experts in molecular and cell biology, most notably from Hannover Medical School (MHH). The overarching aim of this project is to raise the level of theoretical and practical undergraduate education in the life sciences to international standards and to enable Georgian graduate students to successfully apply to renowned international master and PhD programmes.
In the long term, the project will significantly contribute to the improvement of education in biosciences and medicine, to a nationwide improvement of molecular diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities, and, in a wider perspective, can contribute towards achieving an improved quality of life and advances in the Georgian economy. A positive side effect of this pilot project is the acquisition of highly motivated and well-educated biomedical student for the PhD programmes at MHH.
“Efficient designer nuclease-based homologous recombination enables direct PCR screening for footprintless targeted human pluripotent stem cells”, Stem Cell Reports 2014
Genetic engineering of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) via customized designer nucleases has been shown to be significantly more efficient than conventional gene targeting, but still typically depends on the introduction of additional genetic selection. This genome engineering has now been further optimized by scientists from the LEBAO, together with scientists from the departments of Experimental Hematology and Human Genetics (both MHH), as well as with cooperation partners from the University Medical Center Freiburg, as published in “Stem Cell Reports” in January 2014. In this study, the authors demonstrate a selection-independent gene targeting without the typically required antibiotic selection. This optimized approach allows targeted transgene integration into safe harbor sites for more predictable and robust expression and enables the introduction of mutations on nucleotide level as well as the gene correction of disease-specific mutations in patient-derived iPSCs. This method is not only of utmost importance for the investigation of disease mechanisms and for the generation of disease-corrected, patient-derived iPSC lines for research purposes but, ultimately, for future clinical cell therapeutic applications of genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis.
Merkert, S., Wunderlich, S., Bednarski, C., Beier, J., Haase, A., Dreyer, A. K., Schwanke, K., Meyer, J., Gohring, G., Cathomen, T., and Martin, U. 2014. Efficient designer nuclease-based homologous recombination enables direct PCR screening for footprintless targeted human pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cell Reports 2, no. 1:107
“Murine and human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac bodies form contractile myocardial tissue in vitro”, European Heart Journal 2013
For the first time, the team of Ina Gruh and Ulrich Martin was able to demonstrate that contracting heart muscle tissue (bioartificial cardiac tissue, BCT) can be generated from three dimensional cardiomyocyte aggregates, so-called cardiac bodies (CBs), that are based on murine and human pluripotent stem cells. The LEBAO team optimized the processes and investigated the role of fibroblasts, ascorbic acid and mechanical stimuli on tissue formation, maturation and functionality in depth. Together with colleagues from the Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy of the MHH, the Georg-August University in Göttingen as well as the Leibniz University Hannover the researchers, for the first time, generated BCT with contractile forces comparable with native myocardium. This success is based on a novel concept of tissue formation from non-dissociated cardiac cell aggregates and represents a major step towards clinical applicability of stem cell-based heart tissue for myocardial repair.
Kensah, G.*, Roa Lara, A.*, Dahlmann, J., Zweigerdt, R., Schwanke, K., Hegermann, J., Skvorc, D., Gawol, A., Azizian, A., Wagner, S., Maier, L. S., Krause, A., Drager, G., Ochs, M., Haverich, A., Gruh, I.#, and Martin, U.#. 2013. Murine and human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac bodies form contractile myocardial tissue in vitro. European heart journal 34, no. 15:1134. * #Authors contributed equally.
Prince of Hanover and president of the region Hannover visit the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH
Important visitors at Hannover Medical School: Prince Ernst August of Hanover and the president of the region Hanover, Hauke Jagau, visited the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH (From REgenerative BIology to Reconstructive THerapy) on November 26, 2014. “We are delighted that the Prince and the president of the region show such an interest”, says Prof. Dr. Axel Haverich, director of the Department of Cardiothoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery (HTTG). They visited, amongst others, the LEBAO and some patients and were informed especially about heart valves which grow with the patient and about REBIRTH active.
3rd International DZL Symposium
The international conference “Lung Regeneration and Beyond – BREATH meets REBIRTH” is organized as a joint initiative between the Hannover site of the German Center for Lung Research BREATH and the REBIRTH Cluster of Excellence. It will take place from May 8-10, 2014, in the “Schloss Herrenhausen” in Hannover.
The topics include regeneration, transplantation, stem cell research, artificial organs and tissue engineering, imaging, ethics in regenerative science, and patients’ view on regenerative science.
Please find further information here.
Another important visitor at the LEBAO: SPD candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbrück
Accompanied by Stefan Schostok, the SPD candidate for the office of Lord Mayor of Hannover, Peer Steinbrück followed Angela Merkel’s path; of course purely academically. During their visit of the MHH on 15 April, 2013, the politicians also visited the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH. In the LEBAO, represented by Prof. Ulrich Martin and Dr. Ina Gruh, human stem cell derived cardiac muscle cells were presented.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the LEBAO
“I am very impressed by this gem here in Hannover“, said the Federal Chancellor after her visit at the Hannover Medical School on November the 27th 2012. Together with the prime minister of Lower Saxony, David McAllister, she also visited the Hans Borst Center for Heart and Stem Cell Research. Here they were informed about different projects of the clusters of excellence REBIRTH and “Hearing 4 all”. In the LEBAO, the scientist presented new concepts for the therapy of lung diseases and human stem cell-derived heart tissue.
At the end, Angela Merkel discussed current issues with junior scientists at a round table. Altogether, it was a highly informative visit for the chancellor who presented herself good-humoured, friendly, and open-minded.
Here you can find additional information concerning the visit of Angela Merkel:
Further reports can be found here.