Research Priorities

The central and connecting element for research at the entire RWTH Aachen will in future be the interdisciplinary, scientifically sound description, analysis and understanding as well as the design of complex systems.

Therefore, the Medical Faculty has further developed its previous focus in such a way that these aspects increasingly find their way into medical questions and new diagnostic and therapeutic options emerge from an understanding of the system:

More and more diseases are identified as multi-organ diseases and the interaction between organ systems plays a decisive role in the pathophysiology of different disease patterns in the complex system of the organism.

The focus of Organ Crosstalk is on the interaction of different organs. The joint consideration of two organ systems is already successfully pursued in the SFB TRR 57 (liver/kidney), in the SFB TRR 219 (kidney/heart) and in the SFB 1382 (liver/intestine). The aim of these research collaborations is to complement the traditional organ-centred models with an integrated approach to the interactions between different organs. A central role is played by (A) the identification of new mediators by means of preclinical and clinical approaches, (B) the identification of the mechanisms that cause the effects of these mediators, and (C) the translational transfer and validation of new biomarkers and therapy strategies at the patient's bedside by means of suitable clinical study concepts.

Research activities and projects at a glance:

  • System-biological methods (omics techniques, modelling, data mining, process mining)
  • Technical innovations in imaging (Magnetic Particle Imaging, novel PET/MRT Total Body Scanner to image organs with high resolution simultaneously using two modalities)
  • Omics technologies (proteomics, lipidomics (Interreg project) and molecular imaging (MALDItissue proteomics))
  • Close cooperation with Maastricht

Alliances:

  • TRR 2019: Kidney and Heart
  • SFB1382: Good and Liver
  • ITN: CaReSyAn: Kidney and Vessels
  • ITN: IntriCare
  • SMITH: Multiple organ failure

Translation:

  • EU-PHC: Telemedicine in ICU
  • INTERREG: Lipidomics
  • EraNet: Vascular calcification

In the course of acute and multi-phase chronic disease states, clinically critical changes have a significant influence on the further course and prognosis of the disease. The transition from one disease state to another is known as the "phase transition". Examples of phase transitions in the course of diseases are in the acute situation of irreversible organ loss (with the consequence of the indication for transplantation or organ replacement) or in chronic inflammatory processes of organs or organ systems the malignant transformation or the transition from a chronic-reversible to an irreversible state. A better understanding of the phase transition of diseases is therefore an important issue in order to better understand the molecular mechanisms that drive these transitions, to identify predictors that make these transitions predictable and finally to develop molecular target structures for therapeutic modulation. Due to the immediate clinical relevance and the high translational potential, the topic Phase Transition in Disease is an important focus of the Faculty of Medicine.

Research activities and projects at a glance:

  • Inflammation leading to organ fibrosis
  • The relationship between inflammation and malignant transformation
  • Innovative approaches for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and haematological malignancies
  • Excellence Cluster Application Predicitive Hierarchical Simulation (PHS)
  • Numerous clinical projects (also in cooperation with other German university medicinal products as well as with Maastricht and Liège)

Alliances:

  • TRR 57: Organ fibrosis
  • ITN: Epithelial cell motility
  • EXC: Predictive hiercarchical simulation

Translation:

  • BMBF: Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
  • BMBF: Systems medicine of the liver
  • JTI-IMI2: Markers in Steatohepatitis

This focus has taken on a new translational orientation and in the future will no longer be organized according to disease entities, but will rather focus on plasticity, emotion and cognition, and motor and sensory functions, as well as gender and acute and chronic degeneration.

The JARA BRAIN Institutes 1 and 2 were founded in 2016. Building on this structure, JARA BRAIN is to be further developed into a JARA BRAIN Center. In the future, this focus will combine the great imaging competence with molecular concepts (as already realized in IRTG 2150 and GRK 2416) and computational neurosciences (as in the JPND project Systems Analysis of Key Nodes in Neurodegenerative Diseases).

Computational neurosciences also cover the range from molecular to systemic perspectives. Starting from the simulation of neuronally relevant proteins to machine learning approaches in large imaging data sets, this methodology is currently being developed primarily through independent junior professorships.

Research activities and projects at a glance:

  • JARA BRAIN Center
  • Computational Neurosciences

Alliances:

  • IRTG 2150: Aggression and Impulsivity
  • GRK 2416: Multisenses
  • ZUK 32: JARA BRAIN

Translation:

  • FP7, EraNet: Friedreich's Ataxia
  • BMBF: Metabolic Imaging
  • EU-JPND: Neuromuscular disease
  • BMBF: Anorexia nervosa
  • BMBF: Trauma and violence
  • BMBF: Psychiatric Imaging (PING)
  • BMBF: Anti-Psychotica (APIC)

Through continuous further development and research, the founding focus of medicine and technology was established and was given special consideration in the future concept of RWTH Aachen University within the framework of the Excellence Initiative. In this context, one of the eight profile areas was founded at university level with a focus on Medical Science & Technology. Within this focus, the scientific fields of biohybrid systems, imaging and theranostics, interaction of technology and health and digitisation were established. At the interfaces of the focal points, further trend-setting focuses developed over the course of time. Thus, a strong research environment for the development of nanomedicine and drug delivery systems was created between the imaging and theranostics and biohybrid systems orientations. Furthermore, digitization and computer-aided solutions for the entire field of medicine and technology are of great importance. The entire research in the focus area Medical Technology and Digital Life Science shows intensive networking with the other focus areas.

Research activities and projects at a glance:

  • Biohybrid systems
  • Nanomedicine and drug delivery systems
  • Digitisation and computer-aided solutions
  • Interaction of technology and health, mechanobiology, gerontotechnology as well as imaging and theranostics

Alliances:

  • FOR 2591: Severity Assessment in Animal Based Research
  • SPP 2014: Towards the implantable lung
  • GRK 2375: Tumor-Targeted Drug Delivery
  • PAK 961: Biohybrid implant maturation
  • GRK 2145: Mechanobiology in epithelial 3D tissue constructs

Translation:

  • Innovation Fund: TelNet@NRW
  • BMBF Medical Informatics: SMITH
  • EU-PHC: PET/MRI for breast cancer
  • Innovation fund: OncoScout
  • Interreg: OncoCare
  • HORIZON 2020 EFRE: breast cancer therapy
  • BMBF VIP+: Pulmostent
  • BGETEM: PCB exposure