The innovative new MITS building, located at the corner of Augsburger Straße/Fiedlerstraße, in the Dresden district of Johannstadt, was officially inaugurated during a public ceremony on Monday, October 10, 2022. The new state-of-the-art research center will provide experts from the fields of internal medicine, endocrinology, immunology, surgery, transplantation medicine, cellular biology, and material sciences with a new place to work. Together, they will work on developing new medical approaches under one roof. The federal and state governments funded the construction with investments totaling over 35 million euros.
“At this unique center, science and medicine will develop methods for the diagnosis and prevention of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, which will be rapidly applied to innovative therapeutic approaches,” says Professor Stefan R. Bornstein, MITS spokesperson. “The creation of ultra-modern communication interfaces between patients, physicians, scientists, and digital data is internationally groundbreaking for future treatment and not only of diabetes”.
New Strategies Developed using Metabolic and Immunological Biomedical Findings
In Germany, more than eight million people suffer from diabetes. In terms of incidence and mortality, it takes fourth place in the list of diseases. The consequences of this metabolic disease not only include visible weight gain: Diabetes puts sufferers at an increased risk of heart disease, blindness, or circulatory disorders. The number of those affected in Germany has increased by almost 40 percent over the last 20 years. In the older population, approximately one in five people have diabetes. In Germany, the number of diabetes patients increases by 1000 people every day. Worldwide, half a billion people suffer from this disease of affluence.
“The disease presents us with societal and socioeconomic challenges,” says Professor Michael Albrecht, Medical Director of University Hospital Dresden. “This must be combated with diversified interdisciplinary approaches”. “Therefore, we aim to translate the newest findings from metabolic and immunological biomedicine into innovative and effective strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and complications of diabetes,” adds Professor Esther Troost, Dean of the Medical Faculty at the Technical University of Dresden.
Applying New Technologies and Therapies to Patients
From now on, experts at the center will also carry out scientific work on a bioreactor: “You can imagine it like a pacemaker. A small can with a diameter of five to six centimeters that is transplanted onto the peritoneum, i.e., under the skin,” says Prof. Bornstein. The can is packed with beta cells, for example, from pigs, and protected from the defense mechanisms of the human body. The cells have an external oxygen supply via a port and receive nutrients from the body through a membrane. The reactor can then independently produce insulin as required and deliver it to the body. This makes the administration of insulin via injection or pumps obsolete”.
The medical, cell biology, engineering, and material science teams will have to conduct further research before the bioreactor is able to help all type 1 diabetes patients. MITS will be the center for this work, providing them with the research spaces they require. “We are dealing with a new and innovative understanding of how the regulation of the immune system works,” continues the MITS spokesperson. The research will also focus on the mechanisms responsible for the rejection of cells and organs by the body’s immune system and how to prevent the onset and progression of the disease, among other things. In addition, MITS researchers also want to test new materials that prevent the rejection of stem or donor cells in the human body.
Furthermore, the experts at MITS also focus on prevention and cure. The objective is to prevent complications affecting blood vessels, the heart, kidneys, liver, and bones caused by diabetes and other metabolic diseases and to regenerate cell function. “We want to apply these new technologies and therapies in the treatment of patients,” says Prof. Stefan R. Bornstein.
“The center stands for active translational medicine,” explains Professor Ursula M. Staudinger, President of the Technical University of Dresden. “Physicians from the University Hospital work hand-in-hand with scientists from the Medical Faculty at the Technical University of Dresden. This close collaboration is what sets Dresden University Medicine apart”.
Prof. Michele Solimena, Spokesperson of the Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden at the German Center for Diabetes Research and Professor of Molecular Diabetology at the Medical Faculty in Dresden benefits from this collaboration, among others. Together with his team, he researches how beta cells function using human tissue samples, among other things. The pancreatic beta cells are the only cells in the human body that release the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin. Autoimmune destruction of beta cells results in the onset of type 1 diabetes, whereas impaired insulin release plays a role in the onset of type 2 diabetes. Knowledge of how the cells function and what happens in the body as the disease progresses could help prevent diabetes in the long term or optimize existing therapy. Various researchers are already working on improving the cells used in the bioreactor. “MITS offers excellent opportunities to bring together scientists from the field of metabolic diseases,” says Prof. Michele Solimena.
Unique Architecture: The West Wing of the New MITS Building
“The Center for Metabolic and Immunological Diseases and Therapeutic Technologies Saxony (MITS) means Dresden and Saxony have another center of cutting-edge research,” explains Saxony’s Minister of State for Science Sebastian Gemkow. “From now on, scientists and physicians across 13 working groups will collaborate closely to ensure better patient care. Success that benefits those affected not only requires modern laboratories and offices, but also an innovative environment in which interdisciplinary exchange is possible”.
This is exactly what the new building offers at its location at the corner of Augsburger Straße/Fiedlerstraße and directly adjacent to the main axis of the University Hospital. The design came from the architectural firm wörner traxler richter.
MITS is the implementation of a concept for a closely interlinked synergistic chain of work extending from cells to metabolic regeneration, which is unique in Germany. This close interlinking within the 2616 square-meter research space at MITS will further strengthen the international competitiveness of the Medical Faculty and University Hospital Dresden, which sets itself apart with the innovative bioreactor product.
“Our mission is lending space and design to individual content. In the case of MITS, this is their fascinating research project with the small bioreactor. We wanted this innovation to be incorporated into the building, so we used it as inspiration for the special arrangement of the gable windows. From here, cubes appear to float into the multi-level lobby, creating special communication zones for scientific exchange and creative brainstorming,” explains architect Martin Richter, Managing Partner at wörner traxler richter.
Counteracting Metabolic Disease
The construction of MITS began in December 2018. The new building, which offers space for around 100 staff, is connected directly to the Medical Theoretical Center (MTZ) of the Medical Faculty in Fiedlerstraße, which was opened in 2000. Before the construction of MITS could begin, the industrial brownfield site had to be cleared. The total cost, including the remediation of the contaminated old shoe polish factory located on the construction site, and basic equipment and large devices, was 35.1 million euros. This is below the original estimate of 36.7 million euros. The equipment technology on site will enable the scientists to fully capture the body’s metabolism, isolate cells, and gain insights into cell functions.