Great Honour: Two DZL Scientists Appointed As Leopoldina Members

News 2020-382-E EN

The German National Academy of Natural Sciences Leopoldina has appointed professors Martina Muckenthaler and Uwe Haberkorn, two DZL scientists, as members. Outstanding scientific achievements and specialized expert knowledge in their respective research areas are the criteria for membership in the renowned academy.

Martina Muckenthaler is a professor of molecular medicine at the University of Heidelberg as well as Head of the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU) at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). Her re-search focuses on human iron metabolism and what happens on a molecular level in case of hereditary or acquired iron deficiency or iron overload disorders. According to recent find-ings, an accumulation of iron can also be associated with a number of chronic lung disorders. In the DZL, Muckenthaler and her team engage in research on the molecular mechanisms which lead to iron being deposited in the lungs and how this is associated with the develop¬ment of lung disorders.

One of her findings was, for instance, that patients with a non-small cell lung carcinoma who accumulate iron in the micro-environment of the tumor have a survival advantage compared to iron-negative patients. Thus, with this particular tumor, iron could serve as a parameter for the prediction of patient survival and offer a potential approach to anti-cancer therapy. Her study group also focuses on fundamental work, such as the impact iron has on vital lung functions.

Fighting Lung Cancer And Fibrosis With Radiation

Professor Uwe Haberkorn’s research examines how radioactive molecules can be used to better identify and treat malignant tumors like lung cancer. He is Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the University Hospital of Heidelberg and Head of the Clinical Coopera-tion Unit Nuclear Medicine at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) Heidelberg. His research group develops new radioactively marked pharmaceuticals using rational design, i.e. the targeted design of molecules, and high-throughput methods such as phage and ribo-some display with peptide libraries. Furthermore, using molecular-biological and biotech-nological processes, Haberkorn’s team has been working on identifying chemical substances that preferentially bind to tumors for years. After successfully passing tests in cell culture and animal models, such ligands can then be introduced to clinical application.

Radioactively marked molecules are used, for example, to map activated tissue cells in pa-tients with lung tumors by means of imaging. Based on the findings, the tumor is assessed and a decision regarding therapy is made. Haberkorn and his team evaluate the influence this form of diagnostics has on the choice of treatment. They also investigate if lung fibrosis, with the help of these diagnostics, could be detected and treated at an early stage.