New function of the FTO gene: How Adipocytes increase energy expenditure

The team of NGFN scientists Professor Dr. Wabitsch and Dr. Daniel Tews from the University of Ulm demonstrated for the first time a crucial function of the FTO gene (fat mass and obesity associated gene). Variants in the FTO gene are known to have a strong impact on body weight. The scientists detected that mice lacking the FTO gene develop adipocytes with increased cellular respiration, thus transforming fat tissue into thermal energy. more

Scientists from Kiel and Berlin Identify New Genetic Risk Loci for Atopic Dermatitis

In collaboration with researchers from England, Ireland and Switzerland as well as the U.S., Japan and China, scientists in Kiel and Berlin have identified variants in four gene regions which strongly increase the risk for atopic dermatitis. The results of the study conducted by the Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) of the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel, Kiel University (CAU), the Cluster of Excellence Inflammation at Interfaces, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, and the Department of Pediatric Allergology of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) of the Charité and the MDC have now been published in the journal Nature Genetics. more

Genetic Causes of Heart Attack are Deeply Ingrained

An international consortium has defined more precisely the impact of the congenital factor on cardiac infarction. The international team headed by NGFN scientists Prof. Dr. Jeanette Erdmann, Lübeck, and Prof. Dr. Heribert Schunkert, Munich, identified 104 genetic loci, strongly associated with the risk of developing a cardiac infarction. In total, 46 chromosomal sections are now identified, that  are confirmed to cause this threatening disease with genome wide significance. Thus the risk of a heart attack is much deeper ingrained than assumed so far. more

Germany has a „big“ problem - Workshop on obesity prevention in Germany

In Germany more than half of the population suffer from overweight, about every fourth German even suffers from obesity. To counteract this development it is necessary to enhance the prevention of obesity in Germany. Therefore it is essential to approach obesity within a social consensus. Stakeholders from different areas such as politics, science, public health service, food industry as well as the media are most commonly considered to be responsible and are called to act jointly. This was the conclusion drawn by the experts at of the workshop “Perspectives of Obesity Prevention in Germany – Possibilities and Limits” that successfully took place on the 25th October 2012 in Berlin.

Cancer-promoting effect of a protein elucidated: LIN28B induces growth of neuroblastoma

Neuroblastomas are the most common solid tumors in children and account for 15% of pediatric cancer deaths. Therefore the search of new therapeutic strategies for targeting neuroblastoma is of great relevance. An international research team led by Prof. Dr. med. Johannes H. Schulte from the National Genome Research Network (NGFN) now successfully found a potential opportunity for such novel therapeutic strategies. The team proved the tumor promoting effect of the protein LIN28B in the development of neuroblastomas. The results of this work have been published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Tracking the novelty-induced exploration and the Parkinson's disease: ion channels control dopamine neurons

How are the activity of neurons, the novelty-induced exploration and the Parkinson's disease connected with each other? The teams of NGFN researchers Professor Birgit Liss from the University of Ulm and Professor Jochen Roeper from the University of Frankfurt discovered a specific protein, an ATP-sensitive potassium (K-ATP) ion channel, to be crucial for the activity of dopamine substantia nigra neurons. Consequently they are important for the pathophysiology of the Parkinson disease but also for novelty-dependent exploratory behavior. These new scientific findings which have been funded amongst others by the National Genome Research Network (NGFN) are now published in Nature Neuroscience.  more

On the trail of the weighty genes – new genetic variants of obesity identified

A team of NGFN researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen discovered two new loci associated with common early-onset obesity by international collaborative genome-wide meta-analyses on children. Furthermore these genetic-loci also yielded directionally consistent associations in a previous meta-analysis of adult obesity. Due to the decoding of the biological mechanisms of obesity researchers hope to improve therapies for affected persons.  more

Genome snippets against breast cancer – New approach revealing complex interplay

Via a newly developed strategy, scientists of the National Genome Research Network (NGFN-Plus) have revealed the role of regulatory microRNAs (miRNAs) for a signaling pathway with a pivotal role in breast cancer proliferation and pathogenesis. PD Dr Stefan Wiemann and Dr Özgür Sahin and their team at the German Cancer Research Center discovered three miRNAs inhibiting this signaling pathway and thus slowing down the growth of tumor cells. The especially developed approach combines high throughput proteomic readout with computer based data analyses and allows examination on network level instead of just looking at single components separately.

Explosion in the Genome causes brain tumors

A mutation in the gene for the protein p53, the “guardian of the genome”, leads to an explosive rearrangement of large parts of the DNA in cancer cells. This discovery in a highly aggressive group of brain tumors in children was made by Heidelberg scientists within a study funded inter alia by the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and the National Genome Research Network (NGFN-Plus). The chromosome explosion causes an increased transformation intocancer cells. Testing the patients for hereditary p53 mutations could therefore result in detecting possible tumors in an early and better treatable stage.

Complete mapping of the first German genome

NGFN scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin sequenced for the first time both chromosome sets of a human genome separately. This is indispensible for a deeper comprehension of the human biology, for analyzing the individual risks for diseases and thus for the development of new and personalized strategies aiming at prevention and therapies of diseases. Herewith, Margret Hoehe and her team were the first to completely sequence the genome of a German individual.

New Insights into the Etiology of Complex Common Diseases

Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München, in cooperation with Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and King’s College London (KCL), have identified the association between genetic variants and specific metabolic changes. The study, published in Nature, provides new functional insights regarding associations between risk factors and the development of complex common diseases. Every individual is unique – a closer look at the individual’s metabolites could enable a better evaluation of the risks for developing complex common diseases in the future. more

Breakthrough in the Research of Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases

The tauopathy progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a neurodegenerative disease occurring mostly at advanced age and counting among the atypical Parkinson syndromes. Up to now PSP is irremediable and always terminal. To date, the molecular causes of the disease were unknown. Now an international consortium under the guidance of PD Dr. Günter Höglinger at the Neurology Clinics in Marburg and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Müller, Director at the Institute for Human Genetics at the University Gießen, identified genes, whose dysfunction contribute to the development of PSP. more

New Insights into the Genetics of Coronary Artery Disease and Heart Attack

The pathogenesis of myocardial infarction is not only influenced by the patients’ way of life but also by hereditary risk factors. The important impact of these genetic risk factors has recently been corroborated by a huge scientific study. Together with an international consortium of 150 scientists NGFN researchers were able to identify 13 new risk genes for coronary artery disease, supplemented by the confirmation of ten previously known ones. In the long run the identification of these risk genes will open up so far unknown tracks for prevention and therapy of this fatal disease. 

Altered Brain Structure in Smokers

In a comparative study NGFN scientists have shown a reduced thickness of the medial orbitofrontal cortex in Smokers in contrast to persons who have never smoked. Interestingly the affected brain region plays a role in decisionmaking, reward and impulse control. Yet it is still unclear wether this alteration of the brain structur is caused by nikotine consumption or if it is a predisposition that promots taking up smoking. Although it is known that nikotin has an destructive impact on nerve cells future studies have to clearify the causal relationship.    

Gigantic Studies on the Heritability of Obesity Heradic Factors for Body Mass and Fat Distribution

Obesity increases the risk for many life-threatening diseases such as diabetes type II or cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In addition to habits and nutrition heritable factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity. In a huge international study of the GIANT Consortium (Genetic Investigation of ANtropometric Traits) in which NGFN scientists were involved, the number of risk genes for increased body mass could be doubled.

Migraine Risk Factor Identified

Migraine is an episodic neurological disorder with complex pathophysiology. In an NGFN-funded study researchers now succeeded in identifying a first genetic risk factor that is associated with migraine. This discovery delivers new insights into the etiology of common forms of migraine.

Improved Prognosis for Neuroblastoma Patients

Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumor of early childhood. The course of the disease differs remarkably between individual patients ranging from spontaneous regression to deadly outcome. Scientist of the NGFN now succeeded in developing a prognostic predictor which allows a more precise estimation of the course of the disease. It shall help to anticipate unnecessary treatments and to prevent avoidable cases of recurrence.

Breast Cancer Cells Get Thwarted by miRNAs

Small regulating micro-RNAs of the miR-200 family are often down regulated during tumor growth. NGFN-scientists could recently show for the first time that this miRNA family can be divided into two clusters. Both have different effects on invasion and apoptosis of breast cancer cells and might be potential targets for future therapies.

New Insight into the Pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease

NGFN scientists of the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research showed for the first time, that and how the removal of damaged mitochondria is directed by the two proteins PINK1 and Parkin. A defect in this removal mechanism might be crucial for the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease.

Genome-Wide Association Studies – a Research Approach with Guaranty for Success

In Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) geneticists identify disease-associated genes and their variants that contribute to an increasing risk of developing a disease. With this approach NGFN scientists identified nine new gene variants, which predispose for changes in the heart rhythm. This knowledge might provide insights into atrial disease and lead to new opportunities for atrial fibrillation prevention and therapy. 

A Novel Type of Cardiac Insufficiency and Its Mechanism

NGFN scientists identified the protein Nexilin and demonstrated that mutations of this protein are causative for a new type of heart failure. They showed that Nexilin is important to protect the heart muscle and thus crucial for its enormous power.
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