Plant viruses can be engineered in many ways for use by and in humans. Amongst other things, they can be used as scaffold structures for bioactive molecules, which might help improve implants. Prof. Dr. Christina Wege from the University of Stuttgart is studying these and many more options for the use of harmless viruses for human application.
Viruses can infect cells when they detect specific attachment sites on the cells’ surface. An international group of researchers, including biochemists from Tübingen, have now discovered the molecular mechanism by which the JCV polyomavirus attaches to these receptors. The researchers deciphered the atomic structure of the virus and for the first time ever were able to prevent the virus from attaching to the host cell and causing infection.
Thomas Mertens, Medical Director of the Institute of Virology in Ulm, has a strong scientific and clinical interest in the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a big virus with a big impact which, despite its size, is overshadowed by known viruses such as the HI virus that is the object of research for Mertens’ colleagues. HCMV research is a challenging area where quick successes are rare.
The Heidelberg virologist Hans-Georg Kräusslich and his team are exploring the molecular architecture and morphogenesis of the HI-Virus and the processes occurring at the plasma membrane of the host cell that lead to the release of new viruses and new infections. The budding and maturation processes of HIV particles and the lipid composition of their envelope could be used as targets for the development of new drugs to combat AIDS.
The AIDS virus (HIV) inserts its genetic material into the genome of the infected cell. Scientists of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) have now shown for the first time that the virus almost entirely spares particular sites in the human genetic material in this process. This finding may be useful for developing new, specific AIDS drugs.
Infections caused by mosquito-borne Zika viruses during pregnancy can lead to severe brain defects in babies. The European Union has provided funding of around ten million euros for an international research programme on Zika virus infections in which the University Hospital of Heidelberg plays a key role.
Dr. Markus Mordstein has spent the last four years as a doctoral student at the University of Freiburg investigating the previously relatively unknown interferon lambda. He has been able to show that this molecule has similar protective functions to type I interferons and he has also found that it is far more selective in terms of the site where it exerts its effect.
Patients with oropharyngeal cancers have a more favorable prognosis if their tumors are caused by human papillomaviruses. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have now identified biomarkers which enable them to differentiate cancer cases taking a favorable course from those with an unfavorable one. It may be possible to treat the two disease types differently.
The Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) was the starting point of the discovery that cancer can be brought on by infections. The enzyme “reverse transcriptase”, which led to a rethinking and technological revolution in the field of molecular biology, was discovered in this retrovirus along with oncogenes that led to a completely new concept of cancer development in molecular genetics and eventually to the development of a new generation of cancer therapeutics.
An international group of researchers, including scientists from the University of Tübingen, has deciphered mechanisms that enable the initiation and also the inhibition of influenza virus infections. The importin alpha-7 variant plays a crucial role in the ability of influenza A viruses to infect humans.
A new study led by the virologist and Leibniz Award winner Frank Kirchhoff from Ulm might be about to provide an explanation as to why only one of several independent transmissions of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) from chimpanzees to humans led to the global AIDS pandemic. The researchers now hope that these new findings will contribute to the search for new strategies to prevent the further spread of AIDS viruses.
The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved funding for a new research project at the Universities of Freiburg and Heidelberg. The researchers are working on improving our understanding of the mechanisms that lead to chronic virus infections: how do hepatitis viruses manage to evade immunological defence reactions and survive in the organism without damaging the organism?
Prof. Dr. Christiane Wobus researches mouse-specific noroviruses. The virologist is seeking to clarify the interaction between viral particles upon contact with host cells. The scientist normally lives in the USA, but has returned to Germany for a 12-month period thanks to a Humboldt Fellowship. She will be working at the Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry at Tübingen in Germany where, amongst other things, she highly rates the cooperation opportunities available. Having been in a position to compare the pros and cons of research in Germany and the USA, she is quite positive about returning to Germany at some stage in the future.
Konstanz, Germany, November 29, 2016 and Osaka, Japan, November 30, 2016 – Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company Limited, (“Takeda”) today announced that it will invest more than 100 Million Euros to build a new manufacturing plant for its dengue vaccine candidate in Singen, Germany.
A research group led by Prof. Dr. Bernd Heimrich at the University of Freiburg is investigating how the Borna disease virus can alter characteristic neuronal circuits and destroy the hippocampal nerve cells. The scientists have developed an extremely practical petri dish test system. Their results show which cell types sustain the most damage following infection and also give indications as to how apoptosis cell death can be prevented.
An international research project coordinated at Heidelberg University revolves around the development of new mathematical methods for investigating the interaction between virus and host cell as exemplified by the hepatitis C virus. The integrated “PathoSys” project assembles ten research groups of virologists, systems biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, bioinformaticians and molecular biologists from Germany, France, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey and Russia.
The world's first commercial detection method for the Schmallenberg virus is now available for all laboratories. Kornwestheim-based AnDiaTec GmbH & Co. KG, specialists in detection methods for pathogens in the veterinary field, has just received approval for its product from the Friedrich-Löffler-Institut under the German Ordinance on Working with Animal Pathogens (Tierseuchengesetz). The virus, which has led, among other things, to stillbirths and miscarriages in livestock such as cattle and sheep throughout the whole of Europe in the last few months, can now be detected quickly and reliably.
Scientists of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) with colleagues from the University of Konstanz have developed “RNA switches” which allow them to specifically turn on and off genes in viruses. This will help to enhance regulation of gene therapy and viral therapy of cancer.
Prof. Dr. Michael Schindler explores the interaction between viruses and their human host cells on the molecular level. His specific interest is HI virus infections and the mechanisms the virus uses to attack the human immune system. Schindler’s eventual aim is to identify a new target for the therapy of HIV infections. In April 2014, Schindler was appointed head of the Department of Molecular Virology of Human Infectious Diseases at the University Hospital in Tübingen.
Prof. Thilo Stehle biochemist at the University of Tübingen wants to capture and accurately study the moment at which a virus binds to a cell. He is hoping that further insights into this process might some time enable the development of drugs.
The Thogoto virus is an exotic virus that presents virtually no danger to humans. A group of virologists led by Prof. Dr. Georg Kochs at the Freiburg University Medical Centre are using the virus as model system for its particular suitability in certain experiments. The group is investigating how the virus evades the antiviral defence of the infected host.
Every February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes recommendations on the composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the upcoming influenza season. The WHO’s decision is based on observations and laboratory tests as well as experience and intuition. The particular type of influenza virus that is likely to be circulating in a given season has previously been mainly a matter of speculation. Richard Neher from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, in cooperation with scientists from the UK and the USA, has developed software that takes a less speculative glimpse into the future.
Chronic hepatitis B and C are the major causes of liver cancer. In contrast to hepatitis B viruses, there is no hepatitis C virus vaccination available. New research carried out by Professor Bartenschlager and his colleagues from Heidelberg might give rise to new strategies for the development of vaccines and medications for the prevention and treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infections.
Dengue fever is the most common infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is spreading in Europe and Germany, an upward trend that is due to increased long-distance travel. There are no specific drugs or vaccine for dengue, which is why an international research network has been established to improve the management of the disease. The consortium is coordinated by the Department of Tropical Medicine at Heidelberg University.
The Pap test is regarded as the most successful test for cancer ever, and has saved the lives of many women. However, the test is associated with several weaknesses. The Heidelberg-based in vitro diagnostics company mtm laboratories AG develops and commercialises highly sensitive and highly specific immunochemical tests that provide greater reliability. These tests have the potential to revolutionise the early detection of cervical cancer.