Research for a Future
without Diabetes

„Research for a future without diabetes – this is the mission of the DZD that inspires and unites us.“

Prof. Martin Hrabě de Angelis, DZD board member

Research for a Future
without Diabetes

"The DZD stands for research to benefit people with diabetes."

Prof. Andreas Birkenfeld, DZD-Sprecher

„The Germany-wide cooperation in the DZD ensures that multicenter studies can be carried out with the required number of participants.“

Prof. Michael Roden, DZD board member

 

Research for a Future
without Diabetes

„The DZD places particular importance on the fast transfer of lab results to patient care.“

Prof. Michele Solimena, DZD speaker

 

 

Research for a Future
without Diabetes

„The special feature of research at the DZD is the close interdisciplinary cooperation between different disciplines.“

Prof. Annette Schuermann, DZD Speaker

DZD - German Center
for Diabetes Research

Neuherberg, 24.06.2021

Gastrulation Research Reveals Novel Details about Embryonic Development

Scientists from Helmholtz Zentrum München revise the current textbook knowledge about gastrulation, the formation of the basic body plan during embryonic development. Their study in mice has implications for cell replacement strategies and cancer research.

Gastrulation is the formation of the three principal germ layers – endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. Understanding the formation of the basic body plan is not only important to reveal how the fertilized egg gives rise to an adult organism, but also how congenital diseases arise. In addition, gastrulation serves as the basis to understand processes during embryonic development called epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition which is known to lead to cancer metastasis in adulthood when dysregulated.

“The famous biologist Lewis Wolpert once said that it is not birth, marriage or death, but gastrulation which is truly the most important time of our life. However, there are many things we still don’t know about this phenomenon,” says study leader Heiko Lickert.

In a new study, researchers could show that the formation of the endoderm germ layer is driven by a different mechanism than it has been assumed for a long time. In contrast to the mesoderm, which undergoes an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, the endoderm forms independent of this process. The researchers revealed that its formation is regulated by mechanisms of epithelial cell plasticity that allows cells to leave an epithelium and migrate away. During this process, a gene regulatory protein shields the endoderm from undergoing a mesenchymal transition.

A better understanding of endoderm formation has the potential to advance cell replacement therapy (by improving stem cell differentiation into endoderm in vitro). Moreover, epithelial cell plasticity might be an alternative mechanism of cancer cell metastasis and further studies could identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

“Our study has not only revealed further details of germ layer formation, but also has broader implications for stem cell differentiation and cancer metastasis of the most common and deadliest cancers worldwide,” explains first author Katharina Scheibner.
 

About the people
Heiko Lickert is Director of the Institute for Diabetes and Regeneration Research at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Professor of Beta Cell Biology at TUM School of Medicine and researcher at the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD). Katharina Scheibner is a Postdoc at Helmholtz Zentrum München who shared first-authorship with Silvia Engert and Ingo Burtscher.

Original publication:
Scheibner, Schirge, Burtscher et al., 2021: Epithelial cell plasticity drives endoderm formation during gastrulation. Nature Cell Biology, DOI: 10.1038/s41556-021-00694-x

 

Helmholtz Zentrum München
The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich and has about 2,300 staff members. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/en 

Press contact

Birgit Niesing


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Stained image of an early mouse embryo (gastrula) showing the forming endoderm in green and the forming mesoderm in red. © Helmholtz Zentrum München / Silvia Schirge