Over 20 million euros for two new research alliances
A great success for the University of Münster: the German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding two new Collaborative Research Centres (CRC). The two research alliances – entitled “inSight – Multiscale imaging of organ-specific inflammation” and “Intelligent matter: From responsive to adaptive nanosystems” – will together be receiving funding of more than 20 million euros. The projects will be starting in January 2021, running initially for four years. The new Centres are a boost two of the research focuses which the University of Münster has: “Cell Dynamics and Imaging” and “Nanosciences”. "What great news! This is an impressive success for all scientists involved in the CRC, but also for the university as a whole," emphasises Rector Prof. Johannes Wessels.
In the research project “inSight – Multiscale imaging of organ-specific inflammation”, scientists focus on the question of how the body regulates inflammation in different organs and, to this end, develop a specific imaging methodology. “Inflammation occurs whenever tissue in the body is damaged, for example, by infarctions, autoimmune diseases and infections,” explains CRC spokesperson Prof. Michael Schäfers from the European Institute for Molecular Imaging (EIMI) at Münster University. “Inflammation is part of the healing process, but can become life-threatening or chronic.” The scientists aim to understand which cellular processes in which organs are decisive indicators of how an inflammation will progress. In tackling this question, they will incorporate different imaging technologies – both microscopic and whole-body methods – into their investigations and integrate information from single cells to entire organisms, and from mice to men. “We expect that this holistic view will allow us to identify links between cellular inflammation mechanisms and the function of organs,” says Michael Schäfers. “Our methodology, multiscale imaging, requires innovative strategies for the labelling of cells and the evaluation of image data,” he emphasises. Therefore, clinician scientists, natural scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists are working together in the CRC. In the long term, the results could lead to new examination methods for clinical imaging modalities and help in the detection of inflammation, then in finding the best suited immunoregulatory therapy for individual patients and, finally, in the assessment of its efficacy. The project is part of the research focus “cell dynamics and imaging” at the University of Münster. In the future, a large number of participating scientists from the different faculties will be based together in the new Multiscale Imaging Centre at the University, which is currently being built.
Intelligence is the ability to perceive information and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviour in a changing environment. The CRC „Intelligent matter: From responsive to adaptive nanosystems“ is inspired by the question whether synthetic matter can provide artificial building blocks to enable intelligent material properties. Such intelligent matter would provide entirely new opportunities for instance for the development of artificial skin, soft robotics with adaptive tactility, and brain-inspired computing with reduced energy consumption. Intelligent matter requires an integrated system of materials and nanoscale components. Hence, the central scientific question of this CRC is: How does intelligent behaviour emerge in a system of nanoscale building blocks that operate collectively? „In the first funding period, we will move beyond responsive matter to adaptive matter. Responsive matter contains embedded responsive building blocks that induce a change in properties upon exposure to an external stimulus such as light or current, whereas adaptive matter has the additional capability to process feedback to regulate its properties“ says Prof. Bart Jan Ravoo, speaker of the new CRC. Ultimately, the scientists in the CRC plan to develop intelligent matter which can interact with its environment, self-regulates its properties and learns from the input it receives. The research team is composed of physicists and chemists and scientists from related disciplines in Münster as well as the University of Twente. „Our programme combines interdisciplinary fundamental research and innovative applications. At the Center of Soft Nanoscience, the University of Münster has an excellent infrastructure to realize this programme. This CRC will further enhance the excellence and visibility of the core profile area of nanoscience at the University of Münster“, says Bart Jan Ravoo.
The CRC/Transregio (TR) 128 “Initiating/Effector versus Regulatory Mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis – Progress towards Tackling the Disease” will be extended for a further funding period. The research alliance, under the direction of the spokesperson Prof. Heinz Wiendl from the Department of Neurology (University Hospital Münster), is investigating multiple sclerosis - a disease which is a chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system. The project contributes to the elucidation of the complex interactions between the immune and nervous systems on a molecular, cellular and systems biological level.
Collaborative Research Centres
Collaborative Research Centres are interdisciplinary research institutions at universities which are funded by the German Research Foundation and are established for up to 12 years. The Centres make it possible for innovative, challenging research projects to be worked on. With these two new projects, the University of Münster now has ten Collaborative Research Centres which are either based at the University or which involve several universities, with Münster researchers play a leading role. Researchers from Münster University also work in many other Collaborative Research Centres involving other universities.