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Stem Cell Research at the University of Cologne

Because of the extraordinary importance of stem cell research for regenerative medicine and biological basic research at the cell level, Cologne was among the first locations to form working groups, coming from different disciplines, interested in the capacity for the differentiation of stem cells. At the Institute of Neurophysiology (Prof. Hescheler), work has been carried out for over 15 years with embryonic stem cells, and since 2003 with human embryonic stem cells. At the same time, however, adult stem cells were also being researched intensively. Therefore, in the set up of joint stem cell initiatives of the Cologne working groups it seemed essential to ensure widespread access for research groups, to integrate groups which offered a wide range of expertise and to acquire further groups which concerned themselves, in particular, with the regulation of differentiation activities in stem cells. The European integrated project FunGenES, which is coordinated by the University of Cologne, focuses on the functional genomics of embryonic stem cells.

Here the core competence is genetics, the use of a variety of knock-out technologies, the modification of stem cells (e.g. expression of reporter genes ‘green fluorescent proteins’), signal transduction and extra cellular matrix, along with the provision of optimised transplantation models and mouse-analysis. The working groups in Cologne use both embryonic and adult stem cells and work on both cell systems comparatively. This enables the most efficient approach possible along with an internationally competitive level in this area.

The main focus of the research is the differentiation in cardiac, neuronal, and haemangioblast cells (angiogenesis, tumour vascularisation). Studies on the differentiation of cartilage and bone cells as well as keratinocytes and endocrine cells are also planned. Special ‘highlights’ in the Cologne working circle are the elucidation and exact measurement of physiological/functional and morphological characteristics of the cell derivatives developed from embryonic stem cells. These detailed examinations, which are now spread over a 10 year history, make up the foundation for a study (a joint project with the University of Bonn) on the transplantation of earlier heart cells in a heart attack area/zone, which showed for the first time in the world a statistically significant increase in the survival rate of animals with a transplant. Furthermore, Cologne was the first location in the world for a study in which embryonic stem cells were marked with magnetic particles, thereby making it possible to make them visible after the transplant in living animals by means of nuclear spin tomography. In 2004 the first publication in Germany on human embryonic stem cells was published

Your contact at the University Cologne is Prof. J. Hescheler.

You can reach him at 0049 (0) 221-4786960; E-Mail: j.hescheler[at]

Stem Cell Research at the Max Planck Institute of Neurological Research with the Klaus Joachim Zülch Laboratories of the Max Planck Society and the Medical Sciences Faculty of the University of Cologne

Research on therapies for strokes and brain tumours are the main focus at the Max Planck Institute of Neurological Research. Existing, clinically relevant animal models have enabled a systematic analysis of pathophysiological and biochemical sequences after a stroke.  While in the past the acute occurrence, which lead to tissue loss, was given special attention, in order to develop constitutive new therapeutic strategies, in the past few years we have concentrated on the functional improvement after intracerebral implantation of stem cells. To determine the exact characterisation of the regenerative potential of stem cells and to bring about the examination of the mechanisms, the migration, differentiation and uncontrolled proliferation (tumour-transformation), murine stem cells or cortical neuronal precursor cells in pathophysiologically good characterised animal models for stroke or brain tumours were implanted at the Institute.

The procedures, which were developed in-house, allow marked stem cells under in-vivo conditions to be detected by means of high resolution MR imaging and their spatial and temporal dynamic in chronic progression to be characterised. In-vitro the detection limit is currently sufficient to show individual cells; in-vivo the spatial dissolution lies at 70µm in every spatial direction. The MRI tests are supplemented at the individual end times with confocal laser scanning microscopy and comprehensive immunohistochemical procedures, in order to analyse the functional and cell specific fate of the implanted ES cells in the target area. For the determination of the success of the tissue replacement therapy, these examinations are supplemented with behavioural tests and functional fMRI activation tests.

We are currently working intensively with transgenic cell lines, which express the reporter gene under specific cell conditions (which means under special promoters). For the first time, in addition to cell localisation, this approach allowed us to also track the cell function non-invasively as it progressed over time. These functional cell conditions (e.g. differentiation steps) are made visible using the molecular imaging method. For this we generate imaging reporters for optical imaging (fluorescent and bioluminescent imaging) for MR imaging and for positron emission tomography (PET). In this way, essential, new complementary information can be obtained about the cell vitality as well as about the biochemical and functional aspects of stem cells. Methodologically, it involves developing and applying an innovative approach, 5 dimensional in-vivo molecular imaging (3 spatial coordinates, 1 time coordinate; 1 function coordinate).

You contact at the MPI Cologne is Prof. M. Hoehn.

You can reach him at  0049 (0) 221-47260; E-Mail: mathias[at]

Stem Cell Research at the German Sports Academy in Cologne

Sport should always be considered in terms of tissue adaptation and regeneration.  Regular exercise goes along with muscular, cardiovascular and osseous adjustment processes.  These adjustment processes can take place as hypertrophy or also result through hyperlasia.  For myogenous hyperplastic growth precursor cells have been known for a long time to be in skeletal muscles.  In the past few years, the proof of further potential stem and precursor cells for almost all tissue has made exponential progress.  This raises the question about the influence of physical activity on recruiting, differentiation and the integration of stem and precursor cells.  At the beginning of 2004, a research organisation was created within the set up of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Sport Medicine, at the Institute of Circulation Research and Sports Medicine, which has within its special area of stem cell research a particular focus the impact of physical activity.  Prof. Bloch’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Sport Medicine carries out its stem cell research in close cooperation with research groups of the Stem Cell Network from the University of Cologne, the University of Bonn and the University of Düsseldorf.  The inclusion of further institutes at the Sports Academy in Cologne in stem cell research has already partially occurred, and through this it is increasingly possible to examine the influence of physical activity on the regeneration and adaptation processes which exist in connection with stem and precursor cells.  In addition to investigations within the scope of training strain on athletes and on patients in training based rehabilitation programmes, there are animal experimentation training models available and wide reaching examinations on tissue and cell cultures have been carried out in-vitro.  The main focus of the research activity is the examination of sport associated factors on stem and precursor cell influenced vein regeneration and adaptation and the myocardial regeneration through stem cells.  In addition to the influence of soluble factors, such as cytokines and growth factors, which through physical activity are set free, the mechanotransductive mechanisms that stem cells influence are being examined.  Myogene regeneration of the skeletal muscles through stem and precursor cells are as much a focus as the stem cell triggered osteogene and chondrogen regeneration and adaptation.  In addition to these tissue specific stem cell research areas the key issue is whether training induced processes, generally, have an influence on the recruiting, differentiation and the build up of stem cells and precursor cells and whether they can prevent the aging dependent and/or disease dependant deterioration of stem and precursor cell triggered regeneration and adaption.  This makes it clear that the German Sports Academy plays an important role within the scope of the Stem Cell Network and acts as a cooperation partner in numerous projects of members of the Stem Cell Network.

Your contact at the Sports Academy of Cologne is Prof. W. Bloch.

You can reach him at 0048 (0) 221-49825390; E-Mail: w.bloch[at]

Institute of History and Ethics in Medical Science

The Institute of History and Ethics in Medical Science at the University of Cologne is devoted to the ethics of science in research and teaching. The main focus of the work is based on ethical questions which concern the beginning of human life, reproductive medicine and genetics.  Furthermore, ethical problems of health and normative implications of health and disease terms are worked on. There is a particular emphasis in the research on the historical formation of ethical guidelines and codices as well as well as the relationship between ethics and cultural history.

Your contact at the University Cologne is Prof. Dr. C. Woopen.

You can reach her at 0049 (0) 221 478-86990; E-Mail: christiane.woopen[at]

Institute of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology

The Institute of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology is part of the medical faculty of the University of Cologne. The main research focus is health economics studies, evidence based medicine, primary and secondary prevention, telemedicine and social ethics. The goal of the social ethics field of research is to analyse the allocation of scarce resources in health services and the possible conflicts between economic criteria and justness criteria and to develop corresponding solution strategies.


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