Seven scientists receive the Dortmund Biomedicine Prize 2021

Jan 5, 2022

In December, the Association for the Promotion of Biomedical and Clinical Research awarded seven scientists in three categories. The award was given for scientifically outstanding work in the field of biomedical research that was carried out in Dortmund or in cooperation with a Dortmund institution. 

In the Basic Research category, the prize went to Gerben Vader (formerly MPI of Molecular Physiology), Cristina Cadenas (IfADo) and Ali Salehinejad (IfADo). In the Clinical Research category, Felix Bärenfänger (Klinikum Dortmund) was awarded. Zhexin Wang (MPI of Molecular Physiology), Dominic Kamps (MPI of Molecular Physiology) and Verena Kunig (TU Dortmund) received the prize in the Young Researcher category.

Basic Research

Gerben Vader studied how budding yeast cells control the process of sexual reproduction. His team investigated how a key step of sexual reproduction – the controlled fragmentation and reassembly of the genome – is controlled by two proteins, called Pch2 and Hop1. These factors were shown to dynamically control the coordinated progression of cells through the many steps that allow the production of healthy reproductive cells.

Cristina Cadenas found out in studies that the metabolic processes in the liver are disturbed by fatty liver disease. As a result, there is a higher accumulation of oxalate. An increased concentration of oxalate in the urine is associated with a higher risk of progression of chronic kidney disease because oxalate binds calcium, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

In a current study, Ali Salehinejad discovered that motor learning and cognitive abilities are significantly better at the individually preferred time compared to the non-preferred time of day. Furthermore, this is accompanied by specific physiological factors important for cognitive functions, such as excitability, and plasticity of the brain.

Clinical Research

Felix Bärenfänger investigated the risk of deterministic radiation damage to the skin as a result of fluoroscopy-assisted interventions using the exemplified by mechanical thrombectomy. For this purpose, he developed a method that enables the retrospective estimation of the applied peak skin dose by using the device-sided exposure data. This allows the radiologist to better assess the individual patient risk and, if necessary, initiate dermatological care.

Young Researcher

Dominic Kamps developed and applied new light-controlled approaches to directly investigate the complex interplay between signal network components inside individual, living cells. Thereby, the mechanisms were deduced, how cells explore the mechanical properties of their environment via dynamic cell contraction pulses. This mechanical sensing mechanism plays a central role in many processes, in particular during embryonic development and tumor progression.

Sarcomere is the smallest functional unit of muscle. Zhexin Wang used electron cryo-tomography to visualise the native molecular organisation of a sarcomere at high resolution for the first time. The three-dimensional organisation reveals structural details of various sarcomeric components in different zones. This establishes the foundation for understanding of muscle diseases and ageing in the near future.

Verena Kunig has designed and synthesised a peptidomimetic DNA-encoded substance library (DNL). Using this, a new class of inhibitors of the TEAD-YAP protein-protein interaction, which plays an important role in the development of tumours, could be identified in subsequent DEL selection experiments. She was also able to expand the spectrum of synthesis methods for the design of DEL.

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