New Helmholtz Institute for Metabolism Research in Leipzig

Diabetes affects many people in Germany and is one of the greatest health challenges for society due to its secondary health issues. In order to promote the development of new treatments in this area, the DZD partner Helmholtz Zentrum München, together with the Leipzig University, will set up the Helmholtz Institute for Metabolic, Adiposity and Vascular Research (HI-MAG).

"The new institute combines the in-depth clinical expertise of the University Hospital Leipzig and our innovative approaches from pre-clinical research," explains Prof. Dr. Günther Wess, CEO of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. "Using this systematic approach, we want to close the large research gap concerning the role of fatty tissue in the formation and progression of illnesses."

Research at the HI-MAG will focus on three lines of attack: First, developing a better understanding of the biology of fatty tissue in order to allow active intervention. Important areas here are messenger molecules in the fatty tissue (adipokines), brown adipose tissue (BAT), and the clinical picture of fatty liver. The second major topic will be interdisciplinary metabolic research in order to address the problem of obesity from this viewpoint. The third research field will deal with the vessels, which are often narrowed as a result of the obesity. Newly identified biomarkers should help make it possible to initiate therapeutic countermeasures on time.

"By expanding our research in the area of morbid obesity and its secondary conditions, we are following our strategy of improving the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus," Wess explains. "In Leipzig, we are doing this by pooling the national expertise and bringing the specialists together in one place." Moreover, science should focus even more on the patients. The research at the HI-MAG will therefore rely more on translational approaches and the use of biobanks.

All the participating parties do expect that the new institute will allow progress particularly in the development of new therapeutic approaches. From drug development to vascular grafts to stents that deliver active substances, numerous ideas are on the table. More are expected to follow, because almost every fifth German is overweight and consequently has a higher risk of obesity’s secondary conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. Obesity’s economic impact, producing health costs in the billions, is another motivating factor for the research.

The Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research and already cooperates very successfully in the area of diabetes with the Technical University of Munich, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen as well as the Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden, the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf and the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbrücke. The new institute in Leipzig will secure and further expand long-standing collaboration in the field of adiposity and secondary conditions.