Cancer is usually not curable when metastases have formed in the body. Metastases are often resistant to drugs that have successfully eliminated the primary tumour. The basic features of the complex process of metastasis are now known, but many details still remain elusive. Intensive research activities are focusing on new therapeutic concepts aimed at developing effective anti-metastatic therapies.
Diagnosing suitable biomarkers is a prerequisite for tailoring personalised therapies to patient heterogeneity. Genetic tests and genome sequencing play a key role in these diagnoses. Up until now, personalised therapy has achieved the greatest success in the field of oncology. However, personalised treatments are also gaining in importance for treating other diseases. In Baden-Württemberg, the expansion and further development of personalised treatments to other indications is mainly the realm of large interdisciplinary institutions such as the Heidelberg Centre for Personalised Oncology and the Centre for Personalised Medicine in Tübingen.
Big data is a widely used buzzword in today's information era. The use of big data in the digital world presents both an opportunity and a risk. Mass data is now used and analysed in almost all areas of life. Even the healthcare sector is undergoing extensive digitisation.
Phytopharmaceuticals are herbal medicines whose efficacy is down to one or several plant substances or active ingredients. They have been used for treating diseases since time immemorial. This traditional knowledge is still the basis for many medicinal products made from plants or parts thereof. Herbal medicines have been produced in Baden-Württemberg for many generations.
The digitalisation of industry affects the entire value chain. From individual products to digitising workflows in companies and connecting companies with clients and service providers via the Internet of Things – Industry 4.0 makes completely new manufacturing processes possible and requires new and specific business models.
The number of publications and patents that involve the CRISPR/Cas system has been increasing exponentially since the technique was first described a few years ago. The increase in funding for projects involving CRISPR/Cas also demonstrates how powerful this new method is. The targeted modification of genomes (also called gene editing or genome editing) using CRISPR/Cas is extraordinarily accurate and also has the potential to cure hereditary diseases. However, the benefits of genome editing raise ethical concerns and involve risks that need to be taken seriously.
Epigenetics, i.e. the inheritance of traits that does not involve a change in the DNA sequence, was once a controversial subject that has since become a central focus of biological research. Epigenetic inheritance is now studied by numerous national and international research programmes. Many cellular regulatory and differentiation processes are controlled by epigenetic mechanisms that take place on different levels, including the DNA, histone, nucleosome and chromatin folding levels.
The activation of the body’s immune system to fight cancer is not only a promising therapeutic concept, but is already used in medical practice. The first immunotherapies have been approved and many more are either in the experimental stages or already undergoing clinical testing. Vaccines to prevent certain types of cancer are already being used successfully around the world.
Liver diseases are often underestimated despite being quite common and potentially having serious and even life-threatening consequences, especially in chronic cases. The most common causes of liver diseases are hepatitis viruses, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity; congenital or autoimmune liver diseases are quite rare. Thanks to advances in medical research, diseases such as hepatitis B and C can be treated effectively. Fewer advances have been made in finding treatments for other diseases, particularly liver cancer.
The boundaries between traditional scientific disciplines are becoming less and less distinct. Interdisciplinary cooperation is often required to study complex processes and biomolecular issues. Interdisciplinary cooperation is central to chemical biology, a scientific discipline that applies chemical substances, methods and tools to the study of biological systems ranging from the chemical synthesis of biologically active substances to the specific chemical modification of biomolecules.
While cell therapy has become standard treatment for a number of blood cancers, most cell and gene therapy approaches for the treatment of hereditary and metabolic diseases, neurodegenerative disorders and cancer are still in the experimental phases or early clinical trials. However, recent successes give rise to the hope that cell and gene therapies will in future make important contributions to previously incurable diseases.
Addictive substances and behaviours are as varied as their effects on an addict’s health and personality. However, modern neurobiological research has revealed common principles in the development and continuation of addiction, which can be used as an approach for new prevention and therapy strategies including the prevention of relapses. This dossier presents some of the latest research results in the field.