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Two MDC Research Groups Receive Helmholtz Grants for International Collaborations

Two research groups of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, a member of the Helmholtz Association, can now strengthen their collaborations with partner institutions in Brazil and Denmark.

Professor Michael Bader and Professor Thomas Willnow have been awarded grants of a total of EUR 150,000 each over the next three years from the new funding program “Helmholtz International Research Groups”. The grants will be matched with the same amount from the respective cooperating countries.

Combating severe obesity is the goal of the joint research project of Professor Bader, Dr. Natalia Alenina (both MDC) and Professor João B. Pesquero (Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil). To date, there has been no long-lasting, effective treatment for this serious health problem affecting 250 million people worldwide. As potential target for treatment, the researchers are currently focusing on the hormones of the tissue kallikrein-kinin system, which play an important role in muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, blood clotting and pain sensation.

The Brazilian and German scientists recently showed that one of two receptors that transmit the effects of the tissue hormones is involved in the regulation of the hormone leptin that suppresses appetite. They showed that mice lacking the receptor B1 did not become fat despite a high-fat diet.

Increasingly, disorders of the metabolism are considered to be risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases. However, the molecular mechanisms that control metabolism and brain function and link them with each other are not adequately understood. The research group of Professor Willnow at the MDC has now identified a unique class of signaling receptors – the VPS10P receptors – that are involved both in neuronal survival processes in the brain (Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, bipolar disorder) and in the control of glucose and lipoprotein homeostasis in metabolic tissues (type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia).

To better understand the function of VPS10P receptors in metabolism and in the brain, cardiovascular researchers at the MDC and neuroscientists of the MIND Center of Aarhus University (Denmark) are building up a new research program within the framework of the Helmholtz International Research Group “Metabolism and Neurodegeneration”. The coordinator is Dr. Vanessa Schmidt from the research group of Professor Willnow. She works closely with Dr. Mads Kjolby (research group of Prof. Anders Nykjaer, MIND, Lundbeck Foundation, Aarhus University, Denmark). The aim is to gain insights into the signaling crosstalk between the brain and peripheral tissues and to elucidate disease pathways common to metabolic disturbances and dementia.

Barbara Bachtler
Press Department
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
in the Helmholtz Association
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33

Barbara Bachtler | Max-Delbrück-Centrum
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