Scientists of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg are to benefit from access to cutting-edge sequencing technology. The department, which was established in autumn 2008, and the department’s chair, Prof. Dr. Michael Boutros, deal with the analysis of signalling processes that occur in the development of diseases as well as those which play an important role in the development of an organism.
The next-generation sequencer (SOLiD, Applied Biosystems/Life Technologies) is the first of its kind at the University of Heidelberg. The sequencer allows researchers to decipher the genome within a couple of days as well as detect disease-related mutations in the human genome. The researchers of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology are focusing on the cellular transfer of information and potential defects in the case of disease. Cells register environmental stimuli which affect their behaviour. These stimuli, which are transferred by way of signalling cascades, trigger intracellular signals that in turn induce reactions such as cell division or differentiation. Cellular signalling is of key importance in the pathogenesis of cancer, the regulation of stem cells and many other processes. The scientists of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology use modern genomic and bioinformatics tools for the identification of new signalling factors and the elucidation of their function. The use of next-generation sequencing will also enable the researchers to develop new, specific methods for their research.An important scientific approach in obtaining an in-depth understanding of diseases and the identification of new therapeutic targets involves the comparison of cellular signalling in normal and diseased tissue. The signals received by a cell leave behind traces – also known as signatures – that can be identified using RNA sequencing. The scientists use the powerful SOLiD sequencing technology to investigate how the cellular signatures change through specific signals. Applied Biosystems’ next-generation sequencer is one of the most important sequencing systems on the market. The methods developed using the SOLiD sequencer are referred to as “next generation sequencing” (NGS). Researchers around the world use NGS technology to screen the human genome for errors.