News Release 

Two collaborative research centers

University of Cologne wins new and follow-up funding

University of Cologne

The University of Cologne has won funding for a new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and follow-up funding for another one. The new CRC 1403 'Cell Death in Immunity, Inflammations and Diseases' pursues a multidisciplinary approach to address open questions in cell death research. The speakers are Professor Manolis Pasparakis at the Institute of Genetics and Professor Hamid Kashkar at the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene at the University of Cologne.

In addition to genetics, biochemistry, botany, dermatology, internal medicine and medical microbiology, the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing are involved in a total of 17 subprojects, as are partners at the University of Bonn, LMU Munich and Forschungszentrum Jülich. The CRC will initially be funded for a period of four years with a total of approximately 13 million euros, including a programme overhead.

In addition, the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre CRC/TRR 172 'Arctic Amplification (AC)³', headed by meteorologist Professor Manfred Wendisch at the University of Leipzig, is entering its second funding period. In this project, the University of Cologne and the University of Bremen are cooperating with participation of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research.

CRC/TRR 172 was established in 2016 and has now been extended for another four years until 2023. This means that from 2020 on, the University of Cologne will have fifteen Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) funded with several millions of euros. The University of Cologne thus continues to be the university with the most Collaborative Research Centres in North Rhine-Westphalia.

CRC 1403 'Cell death in Immunity, Inflammations and Diseases':

Cell death is a fundamental biological process that is decisive for maintaining the functions of tissue. Cell death, for example, plays a role when animal and plant tissues come into contact with pathogens and repel them.

Recent research has shown that cells can choose between different types of regulated cell death. The choice of the type of death affects the surrounding tissue and initiates a specific reaction from neighbouring cells. 'With the way it plans to die, a cell has a decisive influence on the rest of the living tissue. What is still unclear, however, is how the decision for one or the other type of cell death is communicated from cell to cell,' said Professor Pasparakis. 'We are only now beginning to understand the physiological and pathological roles of types of cell death and how they are related. This basic knowledge will be valuable for our understanding and therapy of many diseases in which the organism's control over cell death is impaired.'

The goal of CRC 1403 is to understand the regulatory mechanisms as well as the physiological and pathological consequences of different types of cell death in the organism. The focus is on immunity, inflammation and host-microbe interaction.

Pasparakis continues: 'What makes our new CRC so special is that we are exploring cell death mechanisms in both plant cells and in animal cells. With the CEPLAS Cluster of Excellence for Plant Science and the CECAD Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research, the University of Cologne combines outstanding expertise in both areas.'

SFB/TRR 172 'Arctic Climate Change (AC)³':

The aim of the research network, which was established in 2016 and has now been extended, is to monitor the dramatic climate development in the Arctic using various methods. This will improve the reliability of models for predicting the observed warming in the Arctic. The funding for four years amounts to 14.5 million euros.

'In the first phase of the project, we successfully observed and reproduced mainly those local processes that contribute significantly to explaining the phenomenon of Arctic amplification,' says Professor Wendisch from Leipzig. Clouds play a decisive role in Arctic amplification - the phenomenon that the Arctic heats up about twice as fast as the global average. Three elaborate cloud measurement campaigns were carried out in the Arctic. In the second phase, the previous investigations will be extended to the inner Arctic. An observation period encompassing the whole year will help to quantify seasonal differences.

Co-applicant Professor Susanne Crewell from the University of Cologne adds: 'Our large-scale facility MiRAC is currently locked in the ice on board the research vessel Polarstern and will provide new insights into the conditions of polar night. In spring and summer, we want to complete our data with aircraft measurements in the vicinity of Polarstern.'

The research aircraft HALO and the polar aircrafts Polar 5 and 6 will support the icebreaker Polarstern in this endeavour. The latter two are part of the MOSAiC campaign, in which the Polarstern is locked in the ice for 14 months. CRC/TRR 172 is the main contribution of German universities to MOSAiC.


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