Research snippets

© WWU/Erk Wibberg

Iron particles for MR imaging

Physicians, physicists and chemists at Münster University have developed novel iron oxide nanoparticles that can serve as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The exceptional aspect: They can be specifically distinguished from naturally occurring iron, thus enabling targeted tracking of immune cells in mice, and providing novel insight into iron metabolism. The study was awarded the title “Paper of the Month” by the Faculty of Medicine.

© AG Rossaint / AG Zarbock

Targeting systemic inflammation

Although systemic inflammations such as sepsis are not uncommon, there are still major gaps in the understanding of disease progression and the development of treatment options. In order to close some of these gaps, the German Research Foundation is funding a new clinical research group at Münster University with around four million euros over three years.

© S. Gran & L. Honold et al./Theranostics 2018(8)

Immune cells in the spotlight

How do immune cells behave in the body? What happens during immunotherapy? To answer these questions, the European Union brings together leading experts from research and the pharmaceutical industry. The Europe-wide research project "Immune-Image", which is funded with 30 million euros over five years and in which scientists from Münster University are involved, started on 1 October.

© Pascal Runde

New method for the measurement of nano-structured light fields

Physicists and chemists at Münster University have succeeded in developing a technique which is able to detect the typically invisible properties of nano-structured fields in the focus of a lens. This can help to establish nano-structured light landscapes as a tool for material machining, optical tweezers, or high-resolution imaging.

© WWU/Erk Wibberg

Cell communication in the “fear network”

Biologist Dr. Lena Goedecke investigates how nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other and regulate anxiety reactions. In a guest article, she gives insights into her doctoral thesis, which she did at the graduate school of the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence.

© Isabell Begemann, Milos Galic

A trigger for motion persistence

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have discovered that curvatures of cell membranes trigger a self-organising system. As a result, cells can move in the same direction over a longer distance, forming search patterns. The study has been published in the journal “Nature Physics”.

© WWU/P. Grewer

Moving cells – dynamic research

Dynamic plays a central role in the research of the three Clusters of Excellence at the University of Münster. Prof. Lydia Sorokin, spokesperson of "Cells in Motion", as well as the representatives of the other two Clusters of Excellence explain how they understand and use "dynamics" in their research.

© F. Scheidt et al./Angew Chem

New building blocks for drug discovery

For the first time, chemists at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have successfully developed a catalytic method to formally add elemental fluorine across simple, feedstock chemicals known as alkenes with control over the 3D structure. The study has been published in the journal “Angewandte Chemie”.

© A. Singh et al./ Nature Cell Biology

How cells generate forces

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence show that microtubules, which are tubular filaments that form part of the cytoskeleton, generate mechanical forces und contribute to collective cell behaviour during tissue morphogenesis. The study has been published in “Nature Cell Biology”.

© S. Rode & S. Rumpf

Looking at the mechanisms of translation

Proteins are produced in the cell in a process known as “translation”. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence show how nerve cells regulate the production of specific proteins during the development of the nervous system. The study has been published in the journal “Cell Reports”.

© D. Malhotra et al./eLife

Signals that guide cells through the body

Cells produce signalling molecules, the Chemokines, which can control the behaviour of other cells. For this purpose they bind to a protein, the chemokine receptor. Each receptor can trigger different responses. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have discovered a mechanism behind this.

© AG Wedlich-Söldner

Research on the plasma membrane

Internal award: Researchers headed by CiM Prof. Roland Wedlich-Söldner have won the "Paper of the Month" awarded by the Faculty of Medicine at Münster University. The study “Lateral plasma membrane compartmentalization links protein function and turnover” has been published in July in Embo Journal.

© CiM/S. Marschalkowski

My research about the coronary vasculature

Biologist Dr. Guillermo Luxán investigates in the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence what roles the molecular signals in the coronary vasculature play in cardiovascular disease. To do so, he analyses thin tissue sections under the microscope. In this guest contribution, he gives an insight into his daily life in the laboratory.

© S. Herzmann et al./Development

New insights into pruning

When an organism develops, non-specific connections between nerve cells degenerate. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have now discovered that the spatial organization of a nerve cell influences the degeneration of its cell processes. The study has been published in “Development”.

© T. Vogl et al./ J Clin Invest

Restricting overwhelming immune reactions

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have decoded a mechanism found at the beginning of almost every inflammatory response. Their study provides a new approach to develop novel treatment options for many inflammatory disorders with many fewer side effects compared to current drugs.

© L. Rakers et al/Cell Chem Biol

How scientists analyse cell membranes

In an interdisciplinary collaboration, researchers at the University of Münster have developed a method of visualizing an important component of the cell membrane in living cells. Therefore, they synthesized a family of new substances. The study has been published in “Cell Chemical Biology”.

© CiM/T. Hauss

Migrating cells and their environment

Phd student Sargon Groß-Thebing investigates in a research group at the Cell-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence how the cells’ environment affects their migration. As a biologist he works closely with mathematicians. In a guest contribution, he explains his research in a way that everyone can understand.

© CiM/J.-M. Tronquet

How do neuronal processes degenerate?

Adults have fewer neuronal connections than infants because during development, neurons degenerate the non-specific connections. Biologist Dr. Svende Hermann investigates a similar mechanism in the fruit fly. In a guest contribution, she explains her research in a way that everyone can understand.

© S. Gran & L. Honold et al./Theranostics 2018(8)

Observing inflammatory cells in the body

Immunologists and imaging specialists at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have jointly developed a method enabling them to better evaluate and study the activity of inflammatory cells in mice. The study has been published in the “Theranostics” journal.

© CiM/E. Wibberg

Labelling and detecting RNA modifications

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have developed a new method enabling them to locate important modifications to messenger RNA. This is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between biochemists and molecular biologists. It has been published in “Angewandte Chemie”.

© Dimitri Berh, Benjamin Risse

Researchers make a fly’s heartbeat visible

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have developed a new method for visualizing the heartbeat of living fruit-fly pupae and automatically recording the pulse frequency. The study is the result of interdisciplinary cooperation between computer scientists and biologists.

© J. Klingauf

Transmitting stimuli in nerve cells

Glutamate is known as an flavour enhancer. But without the body’s own glutamate, nerve cells cannot transmit any signals. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have shown how glutamate gets into nerve cells to the right places, describing the key role played by chloride.

© MPI Münster/J. Müller-Keuker

Regeneration starts with a wound

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have gained new insights into the mechanisms behind regenerative processes. In flatworms and zebrafish, even small wounds can initiate complete regeneration of heads and bones. The study has been published in “Nature Communications”.

© Cao et al./Nature Communications

Dynamic cell contacts

If new blood vessels sprout from an existing network of vessels, their endothelial cells migrate in order to rearrange themselves and form contacts with other cells. CiM researchers show which mechanisms take place in the process. The study has been published in “Nature Communications”.

© T. Gross-Thebing et al./Dev. Cell

The fate of primordial germ cells

During the development of an organism, individual cells are directed to perform specific tasks within the body of the adult organism. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence show now that the function of a certain protein is responsible for the development of sperm and egg cells.

© M. Goudarzi et al./Dev. Cell

How do cells form blebs for their motility?

In order to be able to move, some cells form protrusions in the form of blebs. How do these blebs form? Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have discovered that folds in the cell membrane play a decisive role. The study has been published in the journal “Developmental Cell”.

© CiM/J.-M. Tronquet

Fish in research

At the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence there are lots of scientists doing work on and with zebrafish. These fish are perfect for research work because they grow outside the mother’s body and are transparent in the first five days of their life. What the scientists study in the tiny fish embryos is, for example, how bones, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels develop.

© WWU/L. Schenk

Research on the circadian clock

Prof. Ralf Stanewsky, a group leader at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence, speaks with the University’s newspaper „wissen|leben“ about the research on the circadian clock. In December, the nobel prize for medicine will be awarded for insights into this topic. (Interview in German)

© Klaus Tschira Stiftung/Nikola Neven Haubner

Complicated research: easy to understand!

Do chemicals that we take up from the environment impair the function of sperm? This is what Dr. Christian Schiffer, a junior researcher at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence, is investigating. He has received the KlarText Prize for an easy-to-understand article about his research work.

© Ivan Bedzhov

One Million Euro in funding for research

Interdisciplinary research: At the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence, ten new projects are receiving funding worth a total of around one million euros. Two team leaders from different disciplines work together on each project and contribute their creative ideas to it.

© JCI Insight

Making digital 3D images of tissue

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have developed a new method for producing digital 3D reconstructions of blood and lymphatic vessels from tissue samples and then creating images of them for analysis. The study has been published in the “JCI Insight” journal.

© CiM - Roberto Schirdewahn

Samples from the desert in her luggage

Lulit Tilahun Wolde, a visiting academic from Ethiopia, is working in a research group at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence. She brought microorganisms with her that can survive in one of the hottest regions on Earth. She wants to find out how modifications in RNA enable the microorganisms to survive.

© Hasan/Nature Cell Biology

Mechanisms of artery formation

During angiogenesis, new blood vessels are formed from existing ones. Research teams at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have shown that the Notch signalling pathway influences the sprouting of new blood vessels and the formation of arteries. Two studies have appeared in the latest issue of “Nature Cell Biology”.

© Svende Herzmann et al./Embo Journal

How does the nervous system develop?

During development, some of the connections between nerve cells disappear. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have discovered a physiological process that plays an important role in this. The study has been published in the current issue of “Embo Journal”.

© MPI Münster/Wade Sugden

Genetic defect causes vessel malformations

What role does the correct size of endothelial cells play in the development of blood vessels? Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have been studying this and have identified a gene which enlarges endothelial cells and can lead to diseases. The study has been published in “Nature Cell Biology”.

© CiM - Jean-Marie Tronquet

50,000 euros for junior researchers

Usually, interdisciplinary research is especially innovative. This is why the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence is funding five new pilot projects. Young researchers from several different disciplines have to apply for and implement the projects, for which they are themselves responsible.

© CiM - Jean-Marie Tronquet

The long road to new knowledge

“March for Science”: On April 22, scientists and citizens around the world will demonstrate for the vital role of science. CiM Prof. Stefan Luschnig knows that knowledge does not emerge overnight. He tells how he discovered a protein – years and years of systematic research work and discussions with colleagues.

© MPI Münster, Vaquerizas Lab/Clemens Hug and Alexis Grimaldi

Emergence of nuclear architecture

When during development does the 3D organisation of the genom in the nucleus arise? A team of researchers around Dr. Juanma Vaquerizas, a group leader at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence, and Clemens Hug, a CiM-IMPRS graduate student, have found new answers to this question. The study has been published in the journal "Cell".

© MPI Münster / Gabriele Bixel

Where do stem cells leave marrow vessels?

In stem cell transplantation, new stem cells are transferred to the recipient’s bloodstream and find their own way to the bone marrow. A research team headed by the CiM group leaders Prof. Ralf Adams and Prof. Dietmar Vestweber identified the blood flow conditions under which blood stem cells migrate from the vessels and can seek a niche in the bone marrow.

© Hörner et al./Journal of Biophotonics

How do cells move?

Using an optical method, researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have investigated the mechanical features of cells in living zebrafish embryos and manipulated, for the first time, several components in the cells simultaneously. The study appears in the Journal of Biophotonics.

© Song et al./Cell Reports

Tracking inflammatory processes

Which molecular mechanisms are at work when, in the case of inflammation, immune cells migrate from the blood vessel into the tissue? Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have gained new insights into this question. The study has been published in the journal “Cell Reports”.

© WWU/Peter Leßmann

Making the Invisible Visible

How can processes in the body that are normally hidden from the human eye, such as inflammation or disease, be made visible? To do this, scientists at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence use a broad range of imaging technologies and work on developing innovative imaging strategies.

© Pauline Wales et al.

Stress leads to an internal reorganization of the body’s cells

If cells are under stress, for example in the case of injuries, they react to the stress and reorganize their cytoskeleton. This has been demonstrated by Prof. Roland Wedlich-Söldner and his team at the “Cells in Motion” Cluster of Excellence. Their study has been published in the journal “eLife”.

© Mailin Julia Hamm, Bettina Carmen Kirchmaier, Wiebke Herzog

Blood vessel cells on their travels

CiM group leader Prof. Wiebke Herzog is looking into the question of how cells in the blood vessels find their way to the right place in the tissue and thus make growth possible. She has now received a Heisenberg fellowship for her work from the German Research Foundation.

© Reprinted with permission from Gerwien & Hermann et al., Sci. Transl. Med. 8, 364ra152 (2016) 9 November 2016
© Korpos (left) / Gerwien, Faust, Sorokin, Schäfers (centre) / Sci. Transl. Med. 8 (2016), Gerwien & Hermann et al. (right)

Research from Cells to Patients

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have succeeded in visualizing, for the first time, ongoing inflammation in the brain in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. The study has been published in the prestigious journal "Science Translational Medicine".

© CiM - Grewer / Kuhlmann

Broadening horizons

The scientists at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence go beyond the boundaries of their own specialised fields and address scientific questions using different disciplines. The enthusiasm for this interdisciplinary team work is evident at all career levels. Seven researchers report on their experiences.

© CiM - Peter Grewer

Between the lab and the hospital

Only few physicians carry out scientific work in parallel to their everyday work in the hospital. But both doctors and patients alike benefit from close links between research and clinic. One aim of the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence is to bring people with different expertise together and to promote the transfer of basic research findings to clinical applications.

© CiM - Peter Leßmann

It went “click“

Researchers of the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have succeeded in marking messenger RNA in living cells using click chemistry. A new study of CiM Professor Andrea Rentmeister and her team has been published in the specialist journal “Angewandte Chemie”.

© WWU - Peter Grewer

FIM shows fruit flies on a shopping spree

Junior researchers from the departments of Computer Science and Biology have developed a method of making precise analyses of the behaviour of Drosophila larvae

Using a so-called FIM table, biologists can photograph even the smallest movement the animals make. The project is being funded by the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence.

How to Build an Organ?

CiM-scientists have found that three factors control progenitor cell positioning in zebrafish embryos

Chemical cues, physical barriers and cell adhesion control progenitor cell positioning. This is the result of a study by cell biologists Azadeh Paksa and Prof. Erez Raz, who worked with an international team of scientists from Israel, France and the USA. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

© MPI Münster - A. Kusumbe

Fresh wind for old stem cell niches

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute and Münster University have discovered how to increase blood-forming stem cells

Blood vessels play a decisive role in the growth of bone tissue and in blood formation, or haematopoiesis. The blood vessels form so-called vascular niches which ensure that the blood-forming stem cells are preserved. Researchers have now found out how they can enhance the function of vascular stem cell niches in bone marrow and, as a result, increase the number of stem cells.

Over a Million Euros of Funding for Interdisciplinary Research

“Cells in Motion“ funds twelve new interdisciplinary research projects

CiM is providing 1.1 million euros of funding for no fewer than twelve new so-called flexible funds projects. What is special about the projects is that the project partners unite laboratories and clinics from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Medicine. Objects of research are sperm, nano-capsules and high-performance scanners.

© Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH and Co. KGaA. Reproduced with permission

Using Trojan Horses to Combat Microorganisms

Researchers analyse potential of an approach to treating local infections

Bacterial infections can have serious consequences – for example, when they colonize an artificial heart valve. There is especially problematic when the bacteria are resistant to several antibiotics. Researchers are looking for new methods of treatment as well as for ways to find centres of infection in the body, for example by means of special sugar molecules. Chemists, physicists, biologists and physicians were all involved in the study.

© Friedemann Kiefer

If cells run out of oxygen, they start to shine green

Scientists from Münster developed a new method to indicate acute lack of oxygen in cells

Without oxygen, cells cannot survive. Until now, scientists could not observe the effect that a reduced oxygen supply can have on individual cells. This was technically not feasible before. Scientists from Münster have now developed a reporter, which allows them to see an acute lack of oxygen of cells using light microscopy.

Blood Cells in Action

Biophysicists measure for the first time what happens when red blood cells “wriggle”

For the first time, and using physical methods, scientists from Münster, Paris and Jülich have demonstrated how red blood cells move. There had been real fights between academics over the question of whether these cells are moved by external forces or whether they actively “wriggle”. CiM Junior Research Group Leader Dr. Timo Betz and an international team have now proven that both opinions are correct. The study was published  in “Nature Physics”.

© Tiplyashin

Inspired by the Chemistry of the Eye

Research team from Münster develops innovative catalytic chemistry process

Doctoral student Jan Metternich and his disstertation supervisor have now succeeded in turning to their advantage a chemical reaction which takes place in the eye and enables us to see light and dark. This process could be used to create special variants (isomers) of important carbon compounds which need a lot of energy to be produced by other means.

© Robert Meißner, Álvaro Barroso, Christina Alpmann, Cornelia Denz

Biology and Physics

Through CiM, these two disciplines grow closer together

CiM brings together scientists from different disciplines to perform novel multidisciplinary research. Through a so-called pilot project programme, physicist Robert Meißner and biologist Wade Sugden will work together to directly measure the forces in blood flow that affect blood cells and their viscoelasticity. Their collaboration has already produced measurable success.

© Mirco Heß

Medical Imaging with Xbox Technology

It does not always need to be the most expensive high tech product to optimize medical technology. A scientist from a research group in the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence used the Xbox technology for an experiment. With the help of this affordable technology Mirco Heß shows scientists a way to better understand clinical images of the inside from the outside.

© CiM - Peter Grewer

Ties Between Science and Clinical Practices

Prof. Dr. Georg Lenz works on treatment approaches to lymph gland cancer

Prof. Dr. Georg Lenz mainly treats patients who suffer from aggressive cancer of the lymphatic glands. But you will not only meet him in the hospital. Prof. Lenz spends a good share of his working time in his laboratory. Holding the first CiM Clinical Translation Professorship he should, wherever possible, directly apply his scientific findings to clinical therapy and take up and intern apply impulses from the clinic to his research.

© CiM - Michael Kuhlmann

'We listen to the sound of light.'

Prof. Michael Schäfers on Photoacoustic Imaging

Just recently the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence (CiM) obtained a new device for 'photoacoustic imaging'. Prof. Michael Schäfers from the team of CiM coordinators explains in an interview with Christina Heimken why this prototype is especially important.