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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Research | Research / Researchers | Research Focus | Research Units | Research Units with participation of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Research Units with participation of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

FOR 1493: Diamond Materials for Quantum Application

In the past couple of years solid-state quantum optics and spintronics has undergone spectacular developments (1). Achievements like coherent coupling of multiple quantum systems, spin photon entanglement or long lived quantum memories witness that the control has reached a quantum level, known so far only from atomic systems. On the other hand, versatile material properties and advanced nano-structuring brings about novel opportunities, which are unique for solid-state systems. Examples are near-field enhanced spin-photon coupling or photon-phonon coupling mediated by nano- mechanical systems (2). In contrast to atomic physics model systems, any quantum device built from solid-state materials comprises a huge number of atoms. Consequently, successful developments to solid-state quantum physics and technology rely on proper choice and design of the materials that embed the quantum degrees of freedom, thus demanding significant efforts in material science. Research in the Forschergruppe aims at exploiting the outstanding material properties of diamond for quantum technology. Defects in diamond allow for exquisite quantum control as they are embedded in a solid with intrinsically low coupling to solid-state degrees of freedom like phonons. In the past funding period, excellent progress has been made by "engineering" of single defect center properties both, with respect to spin and optical control. First steps were taken towards embedding defects in nanostructures and control units. The physics of some impurities - most notably the nitrogen vacancy (NV) and Silicon vacancy (SiV) center - are meanwhile known with such precision that they serve as a benchmark for advance electron structure calculation (3). Such knowledge gave way to new applications, e.g. for quantum networks and sensing. The proposal for the second funding period is dominated by the attempt to further integrate defects into complex periphery and developing diamond structuring onto such a level that some of the outstanding properties of bulk diamond can also be used in nanostructures. The research group strives towards continuously gathering expertise in the area of diamond growth, structuring photonics as well as quantum control. While research avenues pursued in the first funding period are continued, new directions - most importantly - engineered spin-phonon coupling will be explored. The research group now also comprises two theory projects devoted to the latter area.

Host university:
Universität Stuttgart

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Jörg Wrachtrup

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Physics

Duration: 2011-

 

 

FOR 2092: Biogenese of Thylakoid Membranes: Spatiotemporal Organisation of Photosynthetic Protein Complex Assembly

Photosynthetic electron transport is mediated by multi-subunit pigment-protein complexes which are situated in a specialized membrane system, named thylakoids. Despite a detailed knowledge on the structure and function of these complexes, little is known on their assembly during thylakoid membrane biogenesis. The emerging picture of this process depicts a highly-ordered scaffold of assembly factors that integrates the incorporation of proteins and organic as well as inorganic co-factors in a step-wise manner. Recent work has also indicated that the production line for photosynthetic complexes is initiated at biogenic membrane sub-compartments from where it proceeds via discrete and conserved assembly intermediates to generate a functional energy converting apparatus. The FOR2092 Research Unit has set out to disentangle the molecular principles of the spatiotemporal organization of thylakoid membrane biogenesis by applying a multidisciplinary, systematic approach combining unique expertise in molecular genetics, biochemistry, biophysics and ultrastructural analyses. The concept includes the comparative investigation of a set of suitable model organisms that enables one to follow the complete evolutionary path for the development of thylakoid complexity from primordial cyanobacteria to chloroplasts of vascular plants. By focusing on distinct assembly factors and the spatiotemporal organization of their working mode, the joined forces of FOR2092 members have recently discovered a variety of new molecular aspects of thylakoid biogenesis. The findings include details of photosystem II and photosystem I assembly, membrane insertion of thylakoid proteins, organic and inorganic co-factor incorporation and formation of biogenic membrane structures. In addition, both genetic and biochemical approaches have identified several new components of the intricate assembly factor network for thylakoid biogenesis. In sum, this obtained body of evidence now forms the solid basis for a proceeding comprehensive study of the biogenesis process which will be complemented by comparative analysis of the pigment-free ATPase complex as well as state-of-the-art studies on thylakoid ultrastructure in situ. The consortium envisions that by answering the questions how, where and when the different assembly processes take place and are integrated during thylakoid maturation, the development of knowledge-based strategies for the targeted modification of the biogenesis process in a broad set of photosynthetic model organisms will become feasible in the future.

Host university:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Jörg Nickelsen

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Biology

Duration: 2014-

 

 

FOR 2177: Integrated Chemical Micro Laboratories (In-CheM)

Chemistry in miniaturized systems in which (bio)-chemical processestake place in microchannels or cavities is a very active field ofresearch. In recent years, impressive scientific progress has beenachieved in micro reaction technology as well as in the miniaturizationof analytical methods and technologies. Despite intense researchefforts are made in these single disciplines all around the world, theirefficient combination is still largely in its infancy. The intention of theresearch unit “Integrated Chemical Micro Laboratories (In-CheM)” isto meet this particular challenge and to synergistically bridge the gapbetween highly topical approaches in (bio)-organic synthesis andchemical analysis in micro systems. To achieve this interdisciplinarygoal, a team of scientists performs fundamental research in the fieldsof (bio-) chemical transformations in chips or micro reactors. A strongfocus is the combination of chemical synthesis with analyticaltechniques to inline characterize the processes in real-time. By closecooperation of experienced scientists from analytics and synthesisoriented disciplines of (bio-) chemistry, significant progress in the areaof integrated synthesis and analysis labs is expected. Prominentapplication fields of such innovation can contribute in the field of, forexample, drug discovery, assembly of substance libraries, control ofcatalytic reactions and the elucidation of reaction mechanism.Attributed to the strong regional cluster of experts in the fields of labon-a-chip technology, analytical chemistry and synthetic (bio-) organicchemistry, the research area Leipzig-Berlin represents an almost idealbasis for a regionally focused research unit dedicated to meet thesescientific challenges.

Host university:
Universität Leipzig

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Detlev Belder

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Chemistry

Duration: 2015-

 

 

FOR 2402: Rough Paths, Stochastic Partial Differential Equations and Related Topics

The interplay of rough paths with stochastic partial differential equations (SPDEs) has continued, since writing the initial proposal of the research unit some 3 years ago, to rise to one of the most active areas in the intersection of modern probability theory and analysis. Much stems from the fact that the modelling of an evolving system with many variables leads almost inevitably to (partial) differential equations, and yet, we now face many situations (ranging from statistical physics and quantum field theory to neuroscience and financial markets) in which all smoothness assumptions - on which classical theories of differential equations rely in one form or another - are a fortiori violated. Easy (to state) examples include the phase transition of a burning paper sheet or the development of yield curves in fixed income markets. Another aspect is central to these examples: the intrinsic randomness and the resulting need for a statistical description. It comes as no surprise that the field of stochastic partial differential equations has massively gained importance over the last decades. In its classical form, the foundations of which were settled 30+ years ago, SPDE theory fully relied on Ito’s (martingale based) stochastic analysis in a Hilbert space setting. A (slow in the beginning) revolution came in the form of Lyons’ rough path theory, exactly 20 years ago, formulated for ordinary differential differential equations. He realized that analytical ill-posedness of equations subjected to noise can be tamed by identifying a universal lift of that noise, the precise structure of which is dictated by the equation. In the case of ODEs driven by Brownian noise, this amounts to add Levy’s area, leading to a decisive “pathwise” SDE theory. Less than 10 years ago, Gubinelli–Tindel (2010) and Caruana–Friz (2009) succeeded with first formulations of partial differential differential equations driven by noise in the rough path sense. In 2012, Hairer famously used rough paths to solve the KPZ (burning sheet) equation, severely ill-posed due to space-time rough noise. Soon afterwards, he proposed a generalization of rough paths to “a theory of regularity structures”, where - in a sense - each SPDE problem at hand induces its own tailormade algebraic/analytic rough path type framework. Many other SPDEs, especially from statistical physics and quantum field theory could then be - for the first time - analyzed. (For these works Hairer was awarded the 2014 Fields medal.) In a parallel development, Gubinelli, Imkeller, Perkowski initiated the paracontrolled approach, conveniently based on existing tools from harmonic analysis, to a number of similar problems with infinite dimensional noise. The overall aim of this research unit is a continued focus to advance our understanding of the important interplay of rough paths, regularity structures and stochastic partial differential equations.

Host university:
Technische Universtität Berlin

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Peter Karl Fritz

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Computer Science

Duration: 2016-

 

 

FOR 2409:Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global order (OSAIC)

The research group, 'Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order' (OSAIC), focuses on the rise of conflicts at the interfaces of overlapping spheres of authority. Spheres of authority are governance complexes in which at least one (public or private) institution is recognized as authority for a limited number of issues. With the increase of institutional density in the international realm, we start out from the assumption that interface conflicts across different spheres of authority as well as authority conflicts within such spheres proliferate. We speak of an interface conflict when relevant actors perceive rules to be directly contradictory or when they perceive them to diverge in such a way that the simultaneous attainment of the regulatory objectives of the different spheres of authority is seen to be impossible. Interface conflicts can be detrimental to regulatory coherence and governance effectiveness within and across spheres of authority and to the coherence of the global order as a whole. At the same time, interface conflicts can be productive by identifying institutional deficiencies in a given sphere of authority and by creating an opportunity structure for institutional change. In any case, interface conflicts create a demand for finding appropriate ways of tackling them. However, the question of how, and with which consequences this demand is met is an empirical one. Against this backdrop, the proposed research unit seeks to grasp the variety of interface conflicts empirically, to describe the variations in responses to interface conflicts, to explain the observed variance, and to develop a principled normative framework for the assessment of existing practices. We aim at generating systematic knowledge on how the governance activities of horizontally and vertically aligned spheres of authority are coordinated and on the normative quality of this coordination. The research program consists of four components each of which is associated with a guiding question. First, how can interface conflicts be identified? Second, how can we grasp the set of observable responses to interface conflicts? Third, how can variance in responses be explained? Fourth, by which normative concepts can the observed practices be reconstructed? Thus, our approach enables grasping, explaining and normatively assessing variance in the responses to interface conflicts. In doing so, we contribute to theoretical progress and advance empirical knowledge on the responses to interface conflicts. The specific innovation of the OSAIC research group consists in the application of our encompassing notion of a system of overlapping spheres of authority that is able to integrate different analytical perspectives on interface conflicts.

Host university:
Wissenszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Law

Duration: 2017-

 

 

FOR 2419: Plasticity versus Stability - Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Strength

The processing, storage and retrieval of information in the brain depend on neural circuits and the synapses which connect elements within the circuits. Although the gross structure of synaptic networks is stable for years, synaptic strength can change in the minute range in response to particular patterns of activity. The activity-dependent structural and functional changes that occur at synapses are known as synaptic plasticity and are thought to underlie learning and memory, forming the basis for cognitive function. How the balance between stability and flexibility is maintained is barely understood, especially as synaptic proteins turnover rapidly, in minutes to hours whereas memories may last decades. For instance, it is largely unknown how synaptic activation or silencing regulate the dynamic equilibrium of synaptic molecules or the long-term survival of dendritic spines. The list of cognitive and psychiatric disorders that are thought to be “synaptopathies” is growing and includes autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. The DFG Research Unit FOR 2419 applies anatomical, biochemical, physiological, genetic and optogenetic approaches to address the conflict between “plasticity” and “stability” at the synaptic level. The consortium combines expertise in molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience to ask how stable synaptic transmission is achieved, considering the constant turnover of synaptic constituents. Focusing on activity-dependent trafficking of mRNAs, proteins and organelles, FOR 2419 projects investigate molecular and cellular mechanisms that set synaptic lifetime and underlie memory. Our research focusses on highly topical questions at the core of human identity and provides a basis for understanding neuronal disease.

Host university:
Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Matthias Kneussel

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Biology

Duration: 2015-

 

 

FOR 2518: Functional dynamics of ion channels and transporters (Dynlon)

The DFG-Research Unit initiative Functional dynamics of ion channels and transporters combines experimental and computational strategies to study ion channels and transporters. We will focus on ligand activation of ion channels, including ion channels that require ligand binding for channel opening (ionotropic glutamate receptors), ion channels that are modulated by ligands (K2P channels, voltage-gated K+ channels, cyclic nucleotide modulated ion channels) and transporters that can also adopt channel-like conformations (EAAT glutamate transporters and CLC anion channels/anion-proton exchangers). A variety of experimental approaches, ranging from electrophysiology, biochemistry and fluorometry to structural biology, will be integrated with computational techniques including all-atom molecular dynamics (MD), hybrid quantum mechanical/molecular mechanics simulations, as well as free energy calculations and Markov state modeling. Our strategy will foster and exploit an otherwise unattainable synergy between computer simulations and experiments. We expect that our research program will advance theoretical and experimental approaches in ion channel research in general and will provide novel insights into selected ion channels and transporters specifically.

Host university:
Universitätsklinikum Jena

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Benndorf

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Biology

Duration: 20117

 

 

FOR 2841: Beyond the Exome - Identifying, Analyzing, and Predicting the Disease Potential of Non-Coding DNA Variants

Though the introduction of whole exome sequencing (WES) has enabled the molecular diagnosis rate for patients with rare genetic disorders to rise considerably, it has leveled at a maximum of 50%. WES is limited to the coding regions, meaning that it misses disease-causing variants in the non-coding and regulatory sequences of the genome. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is the logical next step as sequencing the entire genome should theoretically solve the remaining cases. Despite the inherent promise of WGS, the numerous obstacles that impede the interpretation of the multitudinous variants identified by WGS clearly demonstrate that WGS is not yet ready for routine clinical use.Beyond the Exome has assembled a unique constellation of leading specialists and researchers from clinical medicine, basic sciences, and bioinformatics who will collaborate to improve the interpretation of variants affecting structural and regulatory regions in the non-coding genome.Beyond the Exome researchers aim to (i) improve the processing of whole genome raw data, (ii) evaluate the impact of 3D genome structure on transcription factor binding and on gene regulation, (iii) collect widely dispersed genome regulation information in a central database, (iv) explore the oscillatory expression of transcription factors as a novel mode of gene regulation, and (v) investigate the epigenetic landscape during human thyroid, bone, and muscle development.The required data is unavailable for the human genome and will have to be generated by our research unit (RU). Such data comprise high resolution transcription factor footprints, histone modifications, chromatin contacts, regulatory networks, physical properties of transcription factor: DNA interactions, as well as the effects of larger structural variants on the 3D structure of the genome. We have access to patients from three well-characterized cohorts with developmental disorders of thyroid, bone, and muscle where WES has failed to provide a molecular diagnosis. Data from these patients will be used to develop and test the derived analysis algorithms. Beyond the Exome bioinformaticians will use the experimental data to develop and improve algorithms that will enable the RU’s public domain software to accurately and reliably interpret the non-coding genome. All of the RU’s aims depend on the integrated expertise of multiple group leaders, and no aim is attainable by a single group working in isolation. The overarching goal of this translational RU goes beyond simply improving the understanding of gene regulation and transcription; resulting in free, online, user friendly WGS analysis software aimed at geneticists, physicians, and non-bioinformaticians. Beyond the Exome’s ultimate goal is to bring WGS closer to routine clinical application, enabling the remaining half of undiagnosed rare genetic disease patients to receive a molecular diagnosis.

Host university:
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Markus Schülke-Gerstenfeld

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Computer Science;
Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Biology

Duration: 2019-

 

 

FOR 2898: Military Cultures of Violence - Illegitimate Military Violence from the Early Modern Period to the Second World War

The requested DFG Research Group ‘Military Cultures of Violence’aims to fill an important gap in both scholarship on military history andresearch on violence: the introduction of the concept of ‘militarycultures of violence’ is designed to allow for the systematic descriptionand explanation of sometimes very divergent acts of violence on thepart of regular European armed forces that were viewed incontemporary assessments as illegitimate. Such acts are alreadydocumented in numerous individual studies, though as yet neither onthis chronological and geographical scale nor as part of a widercollaborative and comparative project. ‘Military cultures of violence’are defined as the violent practices proceeding from members of acollective military agent of violence belonging to a state or a state-likeentity, and the associated interpretative ascriptions and discourses. The research group investigates in which ways and to what extentspecific military cultures of violence developed in the regular armies ofthe European great powers from the early modern period to the end ofthe Second World War. In the framework of the sub-projects, anattempt will be made to identify in synchronous and diachronic studiesthe military cultures of violence subjected to continual transformation, map out their determining factors, and classify their significance andtheir explanatory value for military acts of violence on the part of therespective regular agents of violence. The focus of scholarly interesthere is physical violence regarded by contemporaries as illegitimate intimes of both war and peace, for which reason the question of thechanging yardsticks of legitimacy and illegitimacy of violence andconditions for their transformation will be repeatedly posed.

Host university:
University Potsdam

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Sönke Neitzel

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of History

Duration: 2021-

 

 

FOR 2936: Climate Change and Health in Sub-Saharan-Africa

The proposed Research Unit (RU) addresses the growing public health concern of accelerated disease burden as a consequence of climate change. So far, there have been very limited concerted efforts by public health scientists, climate change researchers, and social scientists to quantify the climate change impacts on human health. Even more so, the vulnerable populations in sub-Saharan Africa have been under-researched for this matter, despite the facts that rural populations in Africa are strongly affected by climate change and exhibit the lowest adaptive capacity. Indeed, this sub-continent faces an unfinished agenda of combatting undernutrition and infectious diseases with all the negative societal and economic consequences. At the same time, non-communicable conditions have been rapidly emerging in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decades, and their management now competes with the limited resources of the local health systems. To date, the additional impacts of climate change on three of these major health problems in the region, namely childhood undernutrition, malaria and cardio-vascular dysfunction from heat have been insufficiently defined. Therefore, this RU aims at i) establishing the causal pathways from weather changes through hydrological, agricultural and economic factors to undernutrition, malaria and heat stress among defined rural populations in Burkina Faso and Kenya, ii) projecting future developments along these pathways, iii) quantifying the effectiveness, the socio-economic costs, and the changes in projections of promising climate-specific adaptation strategies, iv) upscaling the historic and projected scenarios from the local to the national level, and finally, v) identifying broader societal impacts related to long-term health consequences of climate change. For the success of this RU, two German centers of scientific excellence in population health science and in climate change research have joined forces and partnered with expert academic institutions: The Heidelberg Institute of Global Health (HIGH), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and their long-standing partners from Burkina Faso and Kenya offer the wide range of expert scientists needed from public health, nutrition, physiology, climate research, economics, and political science. This North-South network will meet the conceptual and technical challenges for better understanding the complex interplay between climate change, intermediate bio-physical factors and human health. Thereby, the proposed RU will provide essential knowledge for developing effective and efficient climate-specific adaptation strategies for sub-Saharan Africa. In a globalized world, such informed adaptation efforts will contribute to population health, societal wealth and political stability.

Host university:
Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Rainer Sauerborn

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Life Sciences, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences

Duration: 2019-

 

 

FOR 2973: Being Catholic in the German Federal Republic, Semantics, Practices, and Emotions in Western Germany´s Society 1965-1989/90

The research group analyses the renewal of religious faith formation and practice in the context of German social history from the mid 1960s (Vatican Council II, hinge year 1968) to 1989 (the change to German reunification). Those years were characterised by an enormous development dynamic. Even contemporaries were sensitive to these fundamental changes. This is where the research group starts: What specific contribution did "being Catholic" make to shaping post-modernity since the 1960s/70s?

Host university:
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Andreas Holzem

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of History

Duration: 2020-

 

 

FOR 3031: in#sane: The contemporary history of an eroding difference

The history of psychiatry is a history of the difference between normality and madness. However, this difference is progressively eroding. On the one hand, with the opening of psychiatric institutions and the social integration of inmates, madness is becoming everyday normality; on the other hand, reaction patterns and behaviours such as intoxication, stress or attention deficit are pathologised. The collapse of this basic dichotomy calls the interpretative power of extant historical narratives of psychiatry back into question.This is the starting point and basic assumption of the proposed research group: It does not attempt to track changes in concepts of insanity, but focuses on the erosion of the difference between normal and pathological in dealing with psychic alterity. The overarching goal of the projects participating in the FOR is to mobilize hitherto underexplored tendencies in psychia-try as a resource for contemporary history.This goal will be achieved by a decentralisation of the previous topography of the history of psychiatry. Phenomena cutting through established themes shall come into focus: 1. Actorconstellations involving other professional groups than psychiatrists; 2. Logics and spaces that, besides the conventional institutions and their traditional alternatives, include economical and participatory rationalities, thus revealing other ecologies and artistic interventions; 3. Methodical approaches to practices and techniques of interaction and negotiation in the psychiatric field, including the use of media, strategies of communication and of appropriation. Through this de-centring of the history of psychiatry, the FOR aims not merely at cataloguing the conspicuous erosion of traditional categories, but especially at outlining a history of change in the relations with alterity, which challenges the extant historiography. The final aim is to sketch a contemporary history of psychiatry on the model of an anthropology of the present, capable of making the present interpretative schemes of normality/madness amenable to historical analysis.In order to include ethnological/ethnographic, historical/sociological, cultural and literary approaches, the research group consists of scholars from different disciplines. At the same time, it keeps a focus on medical history in order to include the reference disciplines of psychiatry, psychology and social work in the research.

Host university:
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Heiner Fangerau

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Ethnology

Duration: 2021-

 

 

FOR 5022: Medicine and the temporal structure of the good life

The interdisciplinary research unit (FOR) focuses on ethical questions regarding the temporal structure of the good life in the context of modern medicine. It examines (1.) interrelations between medical concepts, technologies and practices on one hand and practical orientations and normative conceptions of temporal structures of life on the other; (2.) how this connection between medicine and lifetime is represented and negotiated in scientific debates, (popular) cultural narrations and everyday lives; (3.) how the pertinent aspects of the good life can be ethically understood, evaluated, and deployed in practice.The investigation of these innovative research questions focuses on three medical fields of application that highlight different phases of life: (a) shifts of biographical time frames in the context of reproductive medicine; (b) the problematisation of biographical phases and transitions in the treatment of chronically ill patients in early and middle adulthood, and (c) the (re-)consideration of aging in medicine and healthcare for the elderly. The relevant moral experiences, attitudes and convictions are analysed in close interdisciplinary cooperation between seven sub-projects from practical philosophy, medical ethics, medicine, culture and media studies, as well as sociology. The results will be integrated from the perspective of an empirically-hermeneutically informed ethics that takes into account the sociocultural framework conditions and fields of application of ethical considerations. The overarching aim is to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the temporal conditions of a good life in the context of medical possibilities. The first funding period (years 1-4) involves the analysis of the aforementioned interrelations between medicine and lifetime by means of qualitative-empirical research in the different fields of application as well as their theoretical conceptualization from the perspective of an ethics of the good life. In the course of research, we will develop interdisciplinary conceptual, theoretical and methodological approaches to describe, explain and ethically evaluate the interactions between medical possibilities and temporal structures of the good life. In the second period (years 5-8), the devised hypotheses will be investigated systematically and the design of a comprehensive theoretical frame of reference advanced. To this end, the main research foci will be expanded in three respects: a) thematically by including additional medical applications, b) theoretically by focussing more on the collective dimension of human life (e.g. generations), and c) methodologically by including a quantitative research perspective.

Host university:
Universität Göttingen

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Claudia Wiesemann

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities, Department of German Literature

Duration: 2021-

 

 

FOR 5177: The Dynamics of the Spine: Mechanics, Morphology and Motion towards a comprehensive Diagnosis of Low Back Pain

Low back pain (LBP) is an overwhelming social and economic burden with a constantly increasing number of patients requiring surgical or non-surgical treatment. The success rates of current clinical treatments for LBP vary considerably, indicating the lack of a basic mechanistic understanding of the underlying causes of disease onset and progression. Only a more mechanistic understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of LBP will give rise to qualified patient stratification and form the basis for personalized therapy. Currently, the decision of whether to prescribe a surgical or non-surgical intervention is based on back/spine curvature (mal-)formations observed in static images (X-ray, CT, MRI) and during short-term physical examinations. These snapshot analyses rarely represent the natural posture of patients during daily life, completely neglecting the dynamics of spinal movements and loading, and thus do not allow a characterization of the underlying causes of pain. Recent technological developments, which were made possible in part by the members of our consortium, allow for the first time (1) dynamic assessment of spinal shape and mobility, (2) measurements of the in vivo forces that act during daily activities and (3) understanding of the mechano-adaptation of associated spinal structures. These technical possibilities pave the way to perform an in-depth characterization of the pathophysiology of LBP and unravel the interlinkage of spinal shape, mobility and mechanical tissue straining, all three of which may causes of pain. This Research Unit will reveal how spinal shape and geometry (MORPHOLOGY), spinal and spino-pelvic kinematics (MOTION) and lumbar spinal loading (MECHANICS) are interlinked and jointly result in LBP. We hypothesize that understanding the interrelations between these 3Ms will open new avenues to develop strategies for functionalized patient stratification, which will provide the basis for more personalized and successful treatment of LBP patients. We will characterize these interrelations in two cohorts, one comprising patients with non-specific LBP undergoing multimodal pain management and one comprising patients with specific LBP who are prescribed a surgical treatment (spinal fusion as an exemplary surgical intervention). Both cohorts and the asymptomatic controls will comprise different age groups and both sexes to address the diversity of patients. In vivo studies of large and small animal models and mathematical modeling will complement these studies to gain a more mechanistic understanding of LBP and to identify and verify its possible causes. In the long term, we aim to translate the functional understanding we will obtain during the period of this Research Unit into better prognostic approaches that will enable more specific patient stratification into risk categories for personalized treatment strategies and thus lay the foundation for more successful treatment outcomes in patients.

Host university:
Charité

Spokesperson:
Professor Dr. Hendrik Schmidt

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Sport Sciences

Duration: 2021-

 

 

FOR 5228: Membrane trafficking processes underlying presynaptic proteostasis

Neurons are polarized cells with a complex cytoarchitecture. Typically, the number of synapses is huge, their molecular makeup extraordinarily complex, and their distance from the cell body, where most protein synthesis occurs, can be enormous. Because neurons are both postmitotic and long-lived, maintaining the integrity of their proteome is of particular importance. Several hundred different proteins can be found in forebrain synapses and this complex proteome creates a unique situation with respect to the molecular dynamics of protein exchange, in particular at the presynapse. Due to synaptic transmission, local membrane exchange is exceptionally high at axonal terminals and accordingly the presynapse represents a region of high energy demand and highly active membrane dynamics. How protein turnover is regulated in axons and axon terminals, and whether this occurs locally (i.e. at the synapse) or in the soma is a key cell biological question. Currently there is a surprising paucity of data on necessities for, and mechanisms of protein replacement at presynapses. Gaps in our knowledge concern: which degradative pathways are involved, how proteins are sorted for certain degradative mechanisms, how sorting itself is accomplished, how different pathways contribute to the presynaptic proteome, which signals direct proteins into a given pathway, how synaptic activity affects degradation, how cross-talk is regulated, and which presynaptic sensor mechanisms identify protein 'damage'. We also lack a thorough understanding on how the different modes of protein degradation interconnect with the need for protein replenishment, i.e. protein translation. It is thus timely to address this long list of unresolved issues and open questions. To accomplish this goal, we assembled a team of expert synaptic biologists who will contribute different methodologies and competences to the problem of presynaptic proteo¬stasis. The Team includes researchers from Berlin, Magdeburg and the Technion in Haifa that (i) cover a broad range of techniques, (ii) are at the technological forefront in molecular neuroscience research, and (iii) display synergistic potential to mark for a super-additive team. In a joint effort our mission will be to break new ground by addressing the following questions: What are the specific contributions of autophagy, proteasome-mediated and endolysomal degradation to presynaptic proteostasis? How are presynaptic function and, importantly, plasticity regulated by autophagy? How is autophagy regulated locally? and, finally, how do non-canonical functions of autophagosomes (e.g. signalling) impact presynaptic development, maintenance and function?

Host university:
Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology

Spokesperson:
Dr. Michael R. Kreutz

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Biology

Duration: 2021-

 

 

FOR 5234: Multiple Competition in the Higher Education System: Constitution of Protagonists, Coordination of Action and Consequences

The overall objective of this research group is to develop a comprehensive understanding of multiple competition in the field of higher education, based on contributions from sociology, economics and business administration. Multiple competition in higher education means that individual and collective actors are simultaneously embedded in and nested within several interconnected competitions. The relationship between these individual competitions leads to a complex netting of requirements, which actors have to face. This interdisciplinary research group, therefore, attempts to answer the following questions: How do actors position themselves when facing multiple competition? What dynamics unfold and what consequences result from multiple competition? To answer these questions, each subproject within the research group aims at analyzing a specific set of characteristics of multiple competition as well as the interrelations between these different competitions. By linking together the results from different subprojects, the research group as a whole will be able to draw a comprehensive picture and develop a theory of multiple competition in higher education. Given the broad usage of competition as a governance mechanism, such a theoretical understanding will be of high importance not only for higher education as a field, but also for the analysis of other areas of society, where no overall evaluation and price system exists. In addition, we expect relevant results for higher education policy and funding.

Host university:
Universität Kassel

Spokesperson:
Prof. Dr. Georg Krücken

Participating Faculty/Participating Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Education Studies

Duration: 2021-