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Conservation of cells and tissue: Dresden researchers receive 1.3 Mill. Euro research funding for interdisciplinary project


10.04.17

A research team of TU Dresden and Max-Planck researchers have been awarded 1.3 Mill. Euro in research funding from the VolkswagenStiftung. The researchers will use this funding to study how cells enter a dormant state when exposed to adverse conditions. Dresden. Life-threatening conditions like a lack of water, oxygen or food lead to a dysfunctional metabolism in most living beings. At worst, such conditions can lead to the death of cells and tissue. However, it is known that some cells can enter a kind of "standby mode" called dormancy. During this mode, life-threatening conditions seem to have no influence on them. Cell activity is reduced to a minimum in dormant cells, which seem to be in an intermediate state between life and death. Metabolism, growth and reproduction cease to occur, but when dormant cells re-encounter favourable environmental conditions these life-sustaining biological processes are reactivated. In other words, if the missing resource, like water or food, is once again available then the cell comes back to life - without having been damaged. So far, little research has been devoted towards understanding how this process occurs. The four-member research team aims at identifying the specific mechanisms required to sustain life without energy and water in order to develop a human cell that can enter such a dormant mode without being damaged. "In the next five years we want to examine the biological, chemical and physical mechanisms that enable a cell to enter and remerge from the dormancy mode. At first we want to identify the molecules that enable life without energy and water. Based on these results, we want to identify the self-organizing, physical principles that protect the cells. One could call it the 'physics of life'. With the knowledge gained, we aim to develop applications that can conserve human biomolecules, cells and tissue. This could enable their storage for decades. This might also enable the freezing of organs," says Jochen Guck.

The project is being coordinated by Prof. Simon Alberti, research group leader at the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG). The project team also includes Prof. Teymuras Kurzchalia (also MPI-CBG), Prof. Jochen Guck, research group leader at the Biotechnology Center TU Dresden (BIOTEC) and Dr. Vasily Zaburdaev (Max-Planck-Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, MPI-PKS). The project brings together biology, physics and chemistry, and emphasizes the high degree of interdisciplinarity at the Dresden Biocampus.

Picture: Prof. Simon Alberti, Prof. Teymuras Kurzchalia, Prof. Jochen Guck, Dr. Vasily Zaburdaev © MPI-CBG, MPI-PKS, BIOTEC

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