Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Treasure trove for research and therapy

03.11.2014

They are termed adhesion G protein-coupled receptors. These receptors are involved in a wealth of vital functions in the body and therefore represent a promising target for drugs, yet relatively little is known about how they work. A new research unit is keen to change this.

Seeing, smelling, tasting, when the heart beats, when hormones do their job – during all these processes, and many others, important tasks are undertaken by a certain class of receptors, known as G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs for short.


Dr. Tobias Langenhan, head of the new DFG research unit “Elucidation of Adhesion-GPCR Signaling”.

Photo: Gunnar Bartsch

Hundreds of them are encoded in the human genome and sit on the surface of cells, where they receive signals, which they transfer to the cell interior. One indication of their importance is the fact that around half of all clinically approved drugs target these receptors and, in doing so, treat ailments as varied as, for example, hypertension, asthma, and Parkinson’s disease. So, from a scientific perspective, these receptors are “a treasure trove” for the development of new therapeutics.

The new research unit

Adhesion GPCRs form a sub-group of this receptor class. They are the focus of a new research unit that has now been approved by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Its spokesperson is the Würzburg medic and neurobiologist Dr. Tobias Langenhan.

The team includes scientists from the universities of Würzburg, Leipzig, Mainz, Erlangen-Nuremberg, and the Amsterdam Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam. By pooling their expertise in this field it is hoped that they will break new ground together. The DFG will be contributing around two million euros to fund the project over the next three years; an extension of a further three years is possible.

“What do they feel? How do they translate stimuli into a cellular response? And what happens when they are missing?” The scientists involved in the research unit want to find answers to these three questions over the next few years, explains Tobias Langenhan.

There are 33 varieties of adhesion GPCRs in the human body. They are important control centers in the brain and in the immune system; they play a significant role in the development of the heart and blood vessels as well as in other processes. And, although they are among the oldest and largest surface proteins in humans, the way in which they work is still largely a mystery.

When receptors are missing

“We now know a little about what happens when they are missing in certain areas of the body,” says Langenhan. This can cause, for example, the development of Usher syndrome, a common congenital hearing and visual impairment. Or it may lead to a developmental disorder of the brain – “bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria”.

Here the cortex folds itself into countless flat gyri; the afflicted suffer from seizures, movement disorders, and retarded mental development. Tumor cells, too, feature faulty adhesion GPCRs, though a causal relationship has yet to be proven in this case. “Fundamental principles of the way in which these receptors work are not yet understood,” says Langenhan. And this is where the work of the new research unit will begin.

Physiology, genetics, pharmacology, biochemistry, structural biology, and pathology: a wide variety of disciplines are represented in the new research unit and will all play their part in shedding light on the signaling behavior of adhesion GPCRs. Developing new drugs is not the primary objective.

“What we do is basic research,” explains Tobias Langenhan. Not until the mechanisms in healthy people are understood can well-founded conclusions be drawn about the pathology, he says. That is not to say, however, that the scientists are completely ignoring any relevance to patients. Langenhan can well envisage the involvement of clinical partners in the potential second period of funding if it goes ahead.

Personal profile

Tobias Langenhan (36) studied medicine at the University of Würzburg from 1997 to 2004. In 2006, he received a doctorate from the Institute of Anatomy with a thesis in neuroanatomy. From 2004 to 2009, Langenhan studied for a Master’s degree and a doctorate at the University of Oxford on a full scholarship from the Wellcome Trust. It was during his doctorate there that he first turned his attention to the way in which adhesion GPCRs work. Since 2009, he has acted as group leader at the Department of Physiology (focus on neurophysiology) at the University of Würzburg.

Contact

Dr. Tobias Langenhan, MSc DPhil (Oxon), T: +49 (0)931 31-88681, tobias.langenhan@uni-wuerzburg.de

DFG research units
A research unit is made up of a team of researchers working together on a research project, according to the DFG’s website. The objective behind supporting research units is to help provide the necessary staff and material resources for close collaboration, usually over six years. Research units often contribute to the establishment of new research directions.

Gunnar Bartsch | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur

nachricht MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>