The German Diabetes Association awards the medal named after the German pathologist Paul Langerhans to leading international researchers in diabetology. This year the internationally recognized geneticist Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis is the recipient of the most prestigious award of the DDG. Among other positions, the award winner is director of the DZD, director of the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München and holder of the Chair for Experimental Genetics at the Technical University of Munich. The Paul Langerhans Medal will be awarded at the virtual Diabetes Congress on May 14th.
Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis' research focuses on the influence of genetics and epigenetics on the development of diabetes. In a genome-wide screen, he and his team identify networks of genes that can play an important role in the development of metabolic diseases such as diabetes1,2. Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis and his colleagues have investigated the question of the inheritance of acquired characteristics independent of DNA for many years. An important milestone was the discovery that diet-induced obesity and diabetes can be passed on epigenetically* to offspring via both oocytes and sperm3. Since epigenetic inheritance, unlike genetic inheritance, is reversible in principle, this opens up new possibilities to influence the development of obesity and diabetes.
An important concern for Hrabĕ de Angelis is to bring research results more quickly from the laboratory into practice (translational research). He pursues this translational research approach, also as one of the founders and board members of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD)4, which was established in 2009 on the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Research and Education. In the DZD, more than 400 researchers from different disciplines are working on the development of precision prevention, diagnosis and therapy of diabetes.
“The fast growing diabetes epidemic presents us with major challenges that we can only solve with an interdisciplinary, translational research approach. In recent years, we have succeeded in deciphering important building blocks in the development of diabetes and developing new approaches for precision prevention and therapy. The Paul Langerhans Medal is a great honor for me as well as an incentive and encouragement to continue working to ensure that diabetes can be better treated or even prevented in the future," said Hrabĕ de Angelis.
Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis studied biology at Philipps University in Marburg and completed his doctorate in 1994 with a dissertation on the influence of growth factors on early embryonic development. During his time as a research associate from 1994 to 1997 at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor (USA), he investigated the Delta-Notch signaling pathway as well as models of somitogenesis.
Since 2000, Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis has been director of the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München and was appointed to the Chair of Experimental Genetics at the Technical University of Munich in 2003. At the same time, he is director of the European research consortium "INFRAFRONTIER". In 2001, he founded the world's first facility for the systemic analysis of human disease models. His research focuses on the elucidation of genetic and epigenetic factors of diabetes mellitus. The development of databases and the application of modern data mining methods play an important role in this. Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis is a co-founder of biotech start-ups, has received numerous national and international honors for his scientific work and was accepted as a member in the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2018.
* Epigenetics investigates those properties of genes that are not revealed by the DNA itself, but by its readability. Epigenetic information is mediated by methyl groups or other biomolecules that, like chemical locks, deny or release access to certain DNA sequences and thus control their activability. They act like a kind of switch in the genome that turns a gene on or off.
1Rozman, J. et al. (2018): Identification of genetic elements in metabolism by high-throughput mouse phenotyping. Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01995-2
2Hrabe de Angelis, M et.al. (2015) Analysis of mammalian gene function through broad-based phenotypic screens across a consortium of mouse clinics Nature Genetics
3Huypens, P. et al. (2016). Epigenetic germline inheritance of diet induced obesity and insulin resistance. Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/ng.3527