Infections caused by bacteria that contaminate the surface of medical devices such as catheters and wound dressings are not that rare and can even be life-threatening. However, at present there is no really effective way to keep these products germ-free until they are used. Scientists at the University of Freiburg have now developed a surface coating that reliably kills bacteria, but is harmless to human cells.
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.
Secondary hop compounds appear to have a positive effect on the immune system and therefore have the potential to be used for the treatment and prevention of cancer. However, the bioavailability of hop compounds in the human body is relatively poor. Researchers from Hohenheim and Tübingen are therefore looking for a way to increase their absorption rate.
The oxidation state of the cells in our body is very important for us: if the normal balance of the distribution of endogenous oxidants is disturbed or if they attack cellular structures, cells are either unable or only partially able to fulfil their functions, and diseases develop. Dr. Tobias Dick and his team of researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg have now developed a biosensor that facilitates real-time measurements of subtle oxidative changes in metabolism and has led to completely new insights into the body.
A sophisticated reservoir that sits under the skin and dispenses precise quantities of drugs locally and at a particular point in time now exists. A junior research group from the University of Freiburg’s BrainLinks-BrainTools excellence cluster led by Dr. Maria Asplund and her doctoral student Christian Böhler from the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) has developed a small storage system made of organic-inorganic hybrid material that can be implanted and used for the controlled release of pharmaceutical substances.
In the ”NanoBioMater”project house, researchers from the University of Stuttgart are working to develop novel hydrogels with integrated biocompatible scaffold structures. Their aim is to make the materials suitable for producing innovative components for environmental and food analytics as well as medical applications. The hydrogels could potentially be used in diagnostic biosensors and the controlled release of medical compounds.
Microbial metabolic products can be used in the fight against dangerous pathogens such as multidrug-resistant bacteria. Since summer 2014, microbiologist Prof. Dr. Heike Brötz-Oesterhelt has been investigating the mechanisms of action of bacterial substances at the University of Tübingen with the aim of paving the way for new antibiotics. Interesting candidates have already been identified.
The therapeutic use of peptides lags behind that of proteins. And there are good reasons for this. However, it seems that this is beginning to change and that peptide therapeutics are growing in significance. As a matter of fact, peptides have become rather popular candidates for drugs.
Peptides exist in all organisms, wherever there are cells. The range of their physiological functions is huge. Biologically active peptides can act as hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors as well as toxins and antibiotics. This is what makes them highly interesting drug leads. They are used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, cancer and other diseases. Despite some drawbacks, peptides are gaining in importance as candidates for drugs and fuelling interest in research into natural and synthetic peptides.
Cells grown on the flat furfaces of tissue culture plates do not behave as they would in their natural environment. This is why scientists are now using three-dimensional substrates to replicate the natural environmental of cells in tissue cellular matrix. Dr. Brigitte Angres and Dr. Helmut Wurst founders and managing directors of Cellendes GmbH in Reutlingen have taken advantage of this new knowledge and developed two novel hydrogels for cell cultivation.
The human body harbours unsuspected resources. It also produces customised drugs such as peptides. Although this sounds like a far too bold hypothesis, it is not. Researchers from Ulm consider the approach so promising that they have now established the Ulm Centre for Peptide Pharmaceuticals (UPEP).
Nowadays everything must be good for something must have a direct noticeable or tangible effect. The ever topical issue of nutrition is no exception. All this makes functional food a promising and inexhaustible market. Teams of scientists around the world are focussing on how unhealthy food can be made healthy. Bioactive plant foods are expected to close a gap that should not have existed in the first place.
Many findings indicate that the consumption of cruciferous vegetable plants rich in mustard oil glycosides has a cancer-inhibiting effect. Researchers from Heidelberg have now shown that sulforaphane, a broccoli mustard oil, blocks a signalling pathway that makes tumour stem cells resistant to cytotoxic drugs. The administration of sulforaphane can prevent therapy resistance and metastasis of pancreatic cancer in animal models.
The processing of food, vegetables and other plant materials leads to large amounts of by-products that are not needed for the final product. These include solid residues from fruits and seeds from pressing that still contain many valuable ingredients, but are not required for the production of food. FoodSolutionsTeam (FST) from Konstanz is developing technologies that enable these by-products to be transformed into valuable food ingredients that are suitable for human consumption. FST tests and combines different processes with the objective of finding a method that can transform almost worthless food production by-products into innovative food ingredients.
The increasing demand for functional foods clearly shows that the role of food is no longer just to meet an essential need. Food that offers additional nutritional benefits is becoming increasingly important for example food that is able to prevent or treat diseases. This kind of food is therefore interesting for consumers the food industry and the healthcare sector alike. Products based on plant raw materials are particularly in demand due to the variety of natural health-promoting ingredients. In the spotlight are plants such as quinoa which are rich in gluten-free protein magnesium iron and unsaturated fatty acids.
The Bioactive Plant Foods network which is coordinated by the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum in Stuttgart is focused on developing innovative products that have a positive effect on human health and placing them on the market. Research resolves around the health-promoting effect of amaranth a short-lived plant with catkin-like cymes of densely packed red flowers. More than 20 partners from industry science and marketing have been working together since 2010 to advance the issue of biological activity and health. The coordinator of the network Hartmut Welck provides insights into this sector in Baden-Württemberg the successes that have been achieved by network partners and why the network is particularly focussing on amaranth.
REGiNA is a users’ centre for regenerative medicine in the area bordered by the cities of Stuttgart and Tübingen and the Neckar-Alb region. It was established with the aim of translating a variety of advanced regenerative methods into broad clinical application. Providing a diverse and broad range of information, REGiNA is focused on making new treatment possibilities and the opportunities created by regenerative medicine known to doctors, patients and the broader public.
How do consumers know whether the food item they have purchased actually is the product with the desired properties or whether the packaging promises more than the product actually delivers? This is not a judgement that can be made based on the product’s appearance or taste. Only analytical methods can get to the bottom of the molecules inside the food item. Prof. Dr. Walter Vetter at the Institute of Food Chemistry at the University of Hohenheim and his team of researchers work on verifying the authenticity of food.
Biotechnological methods are used to investigate marine life and the results obtained from these investigations advance research in the fields of medicine and energy and into substances used as food supplements and cosmetics. The area of marine biotechnology is fairly diverse. Although it is not on the coast even the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg is involved in marine biotechnology.
VivaCell Biotechnology GmbH offers in vivo and in vitro demonstration of the efficacy of pharmaceutical and phytopharmaceutical compounds and nutraceuticals. Using its specific in vitro and in vivo models, the company has been able to prove the health-enhancing effect of numerous foods, and is thus an excellent partner in the Bioactive Plant Foods Network.
The term nanotechnology is known by well over 50 of Germans especially since the lotus effect hit the headlines in the late 1990s. Around the turn of the millennium bio was inserted between nano and technology and nanobiotechnology has since taken up more and more room in the headlines as well as requiring major financial investment. What is nanobiotechnology what is the difference between nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology and where and what nanobiotechnological research is being carried out in Germany and more particularly in Baden-Württemberg and which applications is it aimed at?
An ever-growing number of genomes of soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces are being sequenced. Using a method known as “genome mining”, researchers at the University of Tübingen are working on the identification of gene clusters that have the potential to be used in industrial biotechnology for the production of new antibiotics and other pharmaceutically active substances. To achieve this, the biosynthesis gene clusters are integrated into special production strains where they are optimized.
Researchers at the Centre for Nutritional Medicine (ZEM), a joint institution of the Universities of Hohenheim and Tübingen, are investigating whether and to what extent certain food components can support the treatment of cancer and are hoping to derive scientifically founded dietary recommendations from their findings.
Dr. Daniel Summerer from the University of Konstanz deals with the design of proteins and peptides with novel functions. His approach involves the ribosomal incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins with the objective of producing proteins with novel functions in living cells.
Esslingen-based BioTeSys GmbH is contracted by its clients to determine the bioactive potential of substances and substance mixtures of foods and dietary supplements. Substances are tested whether or not they have a positive effect on human health using a range of chemical analyses, cell-based tests and clinical trials.