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 The genes are not to blame
20.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Targeting headaches and tumors with nano-submarines
20.07.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>