TUM – Latest news http://www.tum.de Latest news of TUM en TUM Fri, 24 May 2019 22:07:59 +0200 Fri, 24 May 2019 22:07:59 +0200 Chaperones keep the tumor suppressor protein p53 in check http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35454/ A cancer therapy without side-effects, that specifically attacks only tumor cells: still a dream for doctors and patients alike. But nature has long since developed exactly this kind of focused anti-tumor program. Each of our cells is equipped with it: When serious damage to the genome is detected, the cell destroys itself, thus preventing the growth of the tumor. A research team in Munich has now decoded the complex regulatory mechanism, which involves a number of different proteins.

"We've known for some time that such a regulatory mechanism exists, and that the tumor suppressor protein p53 plays a key role. What was not known before was the role played by molecular chaperones in regulating the cellular machinery," explains Prof. Johannes Buchner, who holds the TUM Professorship for Biotechnology.

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Research news battenberg@zv.tum.de news-35454 Tue, 21 May 2019 07:00:00 +0200
New degree programs at TUM http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35455/ Campus news a.schmidt@tum.de news-35455 Mon, 20 May 2019 13:23:30 +0200 "Music is usually based on mathematics" http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35452/ The "La La Lab" exhibition, which opened on Thursday at the Mathematics Informatics Station (MAINS) in Heidelberg, presents fascinating links between music and mathematics – from tools that composers have used for centuries to the latest insights from the world of research. How might artificial intelligence be used in the world of music, for example? Through touchscreen exhibits, 3D printing and projections, visitors can engage in hands-on explorations of musical theory and current trends. Jürgen Richter-Gebert designed five of the 15 interactive computer stations.

„We want people to have fun and be amazed. We want them to have smiles on their faces.”— Jürgen Richter-Gebert, Professor for Geometry and Visualization

Prof. Richter-Gebert, what do you hope visitors will take home with them?

We want people to have fun and be amazed. We want them to have smiles on their faces. We hope that they will stand in front of our exhibits, move the sliders back and forth to see and hear what happens, try out various scenarios, see worlds of sound with their eyes and hear mathematics with their ears. And, in doing so, we hope that they will gain a deeper insight into our theme: the fact that beautiful music is mostly based on mathematics.

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Campus news lisa.pietrzyk@tum.de news-35452 Fri, 17 May 2019 10:36:17 +0200
Efficient catalyst for water splitting http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35448/ An international team led by TUM chemist Tom Nilges and engineer Karthik Shankar from the University of Alberta have now found a stable yet flexible semiconductor structure that splits water much more efficiently than was previously possible.

An inorganic double-helix compound comprising the elements tin, iodine and phosphorus (SnIP) forms the core of the structure. It is synthesized in a simple process at temperatures around 400 degrees Celsius. The SnIP fibers are flexible and, at the same time, robust as steel.

"The material combines the mechanical properties of a polymer with the potential of a semiconductor," says Tom Nilges, Professor of Synthesis and Characterization of Innovative Materials at the Technical University of Munich. "From this, we can manufacture flexible semiconductor components in a further technical step."

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Research news battenberg@zv.tum.de news-35446 Thu, 16 May 2019 07:42:00 +0200
Robot therapists need rules http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35442/ Robot dolls that teach autistic children to communicate better, computer-generated avatars that help patients cope with hallucinations, and virtual chats offering support with depression: Numerous initiatives using embodied AI for improving mental health already exist. These applications are referred to as embodied because they involve interactions between individuals and an artificial agent, resulting in entirely new dynamics.

The use of AI in psychotherapy is not new as such. Back in the 1960s, the first chatbots created the illusion of a psychotherapy session. In reality, however, this was little more than a gimmick. With today's advanced algorithms and higher computing power, much more is possible. “The algorithms behind these new applications have been trained with enormous data sets and can produce genuine therapeutic statements,” explains Alena Buyx, Professor of Ethics in Medicine and Health Technologies at TUM. With Dr. Amelia Fiske and Peter Henningsen, Professor of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, she has conducted the first systematic survey of embodied AI applications for mental health and drawn conclusions on the related opportunities and challenges.

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Research news paul.hellmich@tum.de news-35441 Wed, 15 May 2019 09:00:00 +0200
Prof. Nerdinger elected to presidency of Academy http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35447/ Winfried Nerdinger completed his doctorate in art history after studying architecture at the Technical University of Munich. After teaching for a year as a visiting professor at Harvard University, he was appointed Professor for the history of architecture at TUM in 1986. He was instrumental in establishing and developing Germany's most important special and research archives for architecture at the TUM, which he later transformed into TUM's Architekturmuseum. The museum received its own exhibition rooms in the Pinakothek der Moderne in 2002, which meant that Nerdinger became a member of the board of directors of the Pinakothek that year. In addition to numerous other awards, the architectural historian received the Bavarian Architecture Prize and the Bavarian State Prize for Architecture in 2011.  

In 2012, Winfried Nerdinger retired as a professor. At the same time, he assumed a new office as the founding director of the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. Nerdinger continued to have an affiliation with his alma mater as an Emeritus of Excellence.  

In July 2019, Nerdinger will take up his new post as President of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. He has already held the office of the director of the Department of Fine Arts of the Academy since 2004. According to its founding charter, the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts is to observe the development of the arts and "promote them in every way that appears expedient". In addition, it should "contribute to the intellectual debate between the arts and between art and society".

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Campus news lisa.pietrzyk@tum.de news-35447 Mon, 13 May 2019 12:35:36 +0200
CEU and TUM sign cooperation agreement http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35412/ The agreement covers TUM faculty positions in three transnational dual appointments with CEU in Budapest in the field of politics, technology and society. Academic curricular activities will include joint seminars, workshops, summer schools, as well as course-based programs potentially leading to joint certificates and/or degrees accredited in Germany and the USA. Students, faculty and staff members will have exchange opportunities.  

The parties understand that the offer of the Bavarian government to support TUM’s engagement in Budapest is conditional on the ability of CEU to operate freely as a US degree granting institution in Hungary. In this light both parties call on the Hungarian government to provide CEU with the legal guarantees that would make it possible to inaugurate this new chapter in Hungarian and Bavarian academic and scientific cooperation.

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Campus news news-35412 Tue, 07 May 2019 15:56:40 +0200
TUM ranked in the first league with study quality http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35410/ Every three years, the CHE rates fields of study at more than 300 universities. The main objective is to offer guidance to prospective students. To compile the rankings, the center assesses various performance indicators and conducts student surveys. In around 20 categories, which vary from subject to subject, universities are classified in three groups (top, middle and lower group).

In the latest rankings, TUM placed in the top group dozens of times. Architecture and mechanical engineering students, for example, awarded excellent marks for the study conditions as well as the teaching program – an area that also earned praise from students of the Engineering Science program at the Munich School of Engineering. Students of civil engineering and architecture reported high satisfaction with the IT infrastructure. The electrical engineering and computer engineering programs earned excellent scores for their close contact to the career world, among other criteria. Areas where TUM stands out for appearing in the top group particularly often include the international orientation of degree programs and the support for new students.

Number six worldwide ranking for graduate employability

The CHE Ranking represents the most comprehensive university ranking in the German-speaking countries. In the past, students have also given top marks to TUM in surveys focusing on mathematics / informatics and medicine / natural sciences as well as management.

The fact that graduates of TUM's degree programs are in demand is demonstrated on a regular basis by the “Global University Employability Ranking”, based on a survey of approximately 7,000 companies in around 20 countries. In the most recent survey, TUM was ranked sixth worldwide.

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TUM in Rankings klaus.becker@tum.de news-35410 Tue, 07 May 2019 10:17:27 +0200
Prominent antibodies in cerebrospinal fluid http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35409/ To diagnose multiple sclerosis, doctors sample cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by a procedure known as a spinal tap or lumbar puncture. The research team, headed by Professor Bernhard Hemmer, director of the Neurology Department at the TUM’s Klinikum rechts der Isar and chair of the KKNMS, examined CSF samples from 637 MS patients who were observed regularly over a period of four years to monitor their disability status.

Data for the study were drawn from the National MS Patient Cohort of the KKNMS, which includes 1,376 patients enrolled at 18 study sites since 2010. The patients’ data and biological samples were collected at baseline, one year later and every two years thereafter.

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Research news vera.siegler@tum.de news-35409 Fri, 03 May 2019 13:53:00 +0200
Exceptions become the rule http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35394/ It was purely by chance that students carrying out a practical experiment at TUM’s research neutron source (FRM II) challenged the limits of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, a cornerstone of physics established by nearly a century of research. Dr. Astrid Schneidewind needed a specimen for her practical experiment with neutrons. Her colleague, TUM scientist Dr. Christian Franz, had just succeeded in growing a large crystal of a new compound for the first time. Motivated by experiments on similar substances, she let the students test the CeAuAl3 specimen for unusual excitations. Other researchers had already unsuccessfully investigated the material in powder form on different spectrometers.

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Research news vera.siegler@tum.de news-35393 Thu, 02 May 2019 13:09:00 +0200
High-ranking appointment in pediatric cardiac surgery http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35401/ One baby per hundred is born with a cardiac defect. Even as infants, the tiny patients require complex operations or even heart transplants. With around 700 interventions per year, including more than 500 at the DHM of the TUM, Munich is one of the top pediatric cardiac surgery centers in Europe. Until now, the DHM and LMU-Hospital in Grosshadern have operated separately. With Professor Jürgen Hörer now at the helm, all pediatric cardiac surgery institutions in Munich are working together for the first time.

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Campus news vera.siegler@tum.de news-35401 Thu, 02 May 2019 10:05:00 +0200
TUM stands alongside Europe's most innovative universities http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35402/ With the number seven position, TUM has retained its spot among Europe's 10 most innovative universities in the fourth edition of the Reuters Ranking. Close partners of TUM also achieved high ratings, with Imperial College London, EPF Lausanne and DTU in Copenhagen placing 3rd, 5th and 13th, respectively. The Belgian university KU Leuven is again ranked first in Europe. Among countries, Germany has the most universities in the top 100.

To compile the ranking, Reuters analyzed 10 indicators for the period 2012–2017, including

  • the number of patent filings and approvals, in particular international patents
  • citations of these patents in other patent filings
  • citations of universities' scientific publications in patent filings and industry research publications.

TUM's high ranking is therefore indicative of its outstanding technology transfer efforts – in other words, activities that convert research into real-world applications that benefit society. Apart from applying for and utilizing patents, this includes long-term research partnerships with companies and the support provided by TUM to help more than 70 start-ups get off the ground every year. According to the "German Startup Monitor", TUM spawns more entrepreneurs than any other German university.

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TUM in Rankings klaus.becker@tum.de news-35402 Tue, 30 Apr 2019 14:40:49 +0200
New research facility for Sustainable Chemistry http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35399/ Since the Winter Semester 2017/2018, the Straubing Campus for Biotechnology and Sustainability is the fourth campus of TUM. As part of the current expansion from 16 to 30 professorships, a new teaching and research building is being erected there. In addition to laboratory and office space, it offers a divisible auditorium for 300 people, seminar rooms with 200 seats, internship rooms with more than 100 workstations and a cafeteria. The three-storey building is designed according to the most modern principles of energy efficiency and will be constructed with minimal interference in the floodplain landscape near the Danube.

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Campus news a.schmidt@tum.de news-35399 Mon, 29 Apr 2019 12:28:00 +0200
Interconnected patient data http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35392/ The minute we are treated or examined in a hospital, we leave a data trail. This includes personal information such as name, date of birth and address, or medical data such as medical history, diagnosis or treatment results, as well as biospecimens such as blood or tissue. If the patient agrees, these data can also be used for research. In addition, there are also data that are primarily collected for research purposes, of course with the explicit informed consent of the patient. All of this confidential medical information must be protected from unauthorized access.

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Entrepreneurship vera.siegler@tum.de news-35391 Mon, 29 Apr 2019 11:33:00 +0200
Rainforest at Risk http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35385/ “AmazonFACE is the first FACE experiment in the tropics,” explains Professor Anja Rammig from the Technical University of Munich who is investigating land surface-atmosphere interactions as part of her professorship. She is collaborating on the international project with her Brazilian colleague David M. Lapola of the University of Campinas in Brazil.

FACE stands for “Free Air CO2 Enrichment”; it describes an experimental technical set-up, in which the ambient CO2 concentration is artificially increased in the field. This enables realistic investigation of how future carbon dioxide concentrations will affect the ecosystem.

The AmazonFACE project will collect data for at least ten years in the Amazon rainforest approximately 70 kilometers north of Manaus in order to answer open questions: what happens if more and more CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere? How much CO2 can the Amazon rainforest store? Is there a limit?”

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Research news presse@tum.de news-35384 Wed, 24 Apr 2019 10:53:00 +0200
TUM leads the way in university digitalization http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35383/ Dr. Pongratz, you were a driving force behind the launch and development of the TUMonline campus management system from the very beginning. And since your appointment as CIO in 2011 you have been in charge of it. Was it important to be active in this area at an early stage?

Very much so. We could never have coped with the rapid growth of our university, including a near doubling of the number of students in the past 15 years or so, without the appropriate technical support. On the TUMonline platform, students, faculty and administrative staff can access central systems to manage every process they need, from admissions applications to graduation. But we are also aware that the development of a platform of this kind is never complete. There are always new operational and technical requirements to implement, not to mention the new cohort of students that arrives every year, ready to work with the system with a critical eye, bringing with them their own needs, perspectives and sometimes new end devices.

For the success of that kind of system, user friendliness plays a crucial role...

Of course. Although that's very easy to say. The implementation is usually quite complex and takes the form of a long and continuous process. There's also plenty of room for debate about design and layout, for example. Along with the best possible support for processes, our focus was on optimal integration into other TUM systems and minimizing discontinuities. From the beginning, we wanted the greatest possible uniformity in the navigation and bilingual interfaces. For our electronic application, admission and registration processes, we were actually chosen for the 2010 Bavarian eGovernment Lion Award by the Bavarian state government.

Recently there was yet another honor: You were named a Digital Champion by the German Forum for Higher Education in the Digital Age. Does TUMonline deserve some of the credit?

(laughing) I wouldn't want to say what projects or systems played bigger or smaller roles. In general, we're on the right track here at TUM. Apart from the personal recognition, my selection as the Digital Champion for Germany was actually sort of an April Fool's prank. The digital champions are in fact named by the EU states themselves, and as the position in Germany was vacant, the move was intended as a subtle reminder that Germany has some catching up to do.

In a new project, you are now working with top international universities such as MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley to develop forgery-proof certificates using blockchain technology.

Yes, this is a very exciting and promising initiative. Other participants in Europe, alongside TUM, are TU Delft and the Hasso Plattner Institute. There are nine universities in the core working group. We are developing a global standard for a trustworthy infrastructure to exchange digital certificates and proof of academic achievements. While digital technologies have had an enormous impact on research, teaching and learning, and as educational biographies are becoming increasingly individualized, little progress has been made to make such documents more secure and easier to verify. We want to change that. The latest blockchain and digital certificate technologies are ideally suited to that purpose.

When do you expect to have usable results?

I feel confident that we will soon have results to share. We've been cooperating closely since September 2018, have developed a common vision, and are now gradually moving towards implementation. In this phase, the discourse across the global community is very important to us. It's not about creating yet another standalone solution in a crowded field, but rather an approach that can be used by universities and their students around the world.

Can a system like that be integrated into TUMonline?

I don't want to give away too much at this point. But yes, that is a key factor for success and a requirement for widespread use. Without near-seamless integration into a university's existing infrastructure, there will always be problems getting people to accept the new system. In that regard, the technology itself is not very important to many users – the main thing is that it works and is secure, reliable and compliant with data protection standards.

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Campus news a.schmidt@tum.de news-35383 Tue, 23 Apr 2019 13:01:00 +0200
Brexit negotiator to speak at TUM http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35371/ Michel Barnier has headed the negotiations on the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on behalf of the EU Commission since 2016. He previously served as the EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services and for Regional Policy and Institutional Reform. In France, Barnier held a number of ministerial positions starting in 1993.

With its European Union Week, the TUM School of Management and HEC Paris provide a platform to discuss EU-related issues and promote the European idea.

The event is open to the public, with advance registrations accepted at event.wi(at)tum.de.

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Event news-35370 Thu, 18 Apr 2019 11:00:00 +0200
A new partnership in Ethiopia http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35368/ The partners are planning close collaboration in research, teaching and the application of technology. The first “Ethiopian-German Networking Days on Medical Technology” has been organized to kick off the partnership. The three-day event in the Ethiopian capital will see representatives from the academic and business worlds mingle with political figures including Bavaria’s Minister-President Dr. Markus Söder. The research will initially focus on the development of new prostheses and a robust sterilizer for hospitals in rural localities.

TUM launched an initiative promoting long-term partnerships with African universities in 2018. It concluded the first agreement with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. The initiative builds on the 140 projects and exchange programs under which TUM is already collaborating with institutions in 20 African nations.

The new partnership is framed by the “MedTech OneWorld“ program organized by TUM’s Institute of Medical and Polymer Engineering, which investigates new technologies for the needs of developing countries. In collaboration with T-PTC and other Ethiopian partners, the institute has been working for many years on prostheses that can be made with locally available materials and tools. Several TUM  students who were in Addis Ababa to complete their thesis set up the “MedTech OneWorld Students” initiative in 2018. The group brings together around 50 members engaged in voluntary research into new medical technology products.

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Campus news klaus.becker@tum.de news-35367 Wed, 17 Apr 2019 14:34:06 +0200
Leadership Meeting of CEU and TUM http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35404/ Michael Ignatieff, President and Rector of CEU emphasized “TUM is an extremely promising partner for CEU because of its acknowledged world leadership in engineering science and technology and its strong desire to build and expand expertise in the humanities and social sciences. Based on the joint expertise of the two institutions future joint programs are going to look into the political, societal and ethical challenges and opportunities of new technologies.”

TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann said “CEU is a distinguished institution in humanities and social sciences, and we are therefore exploring long-term collaboration that would include the establishment of TUM-CEU faculty positions in Budapest, degree programs, in a unique and unprecedented combination.” He added that “It enhances our vision of human-centered engineering.”

Both parties will meet again in Budapest on May 7 to conclude the discussions and sign a bilateral agreement on the future cooperation.

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Campus news news-35403 Fri, 12 Apr 2019 15:44:00 +0200
How plants defend themselves http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35336/ "The immune system of plants is more sophisticated than we thought," says Dr. Stefanie Ranf from the Chair of Phytopathology of the TU Munich. Together with an international research team, the biochemist has discovered substances that activate plant defense.

Until now, scientists have thought that plant cells – similar to those of humans and animals – recognize bacteria through complex molecular compounds, for example from the bacterial cell wall. In particular, certain molecules composed of a fat-like part and sugar molecules, lipopolysaccharides or LPS for short, were suspected of triggering an immune response.

In 2015, Ranf's team successfully identified the respective receptor protein: lipo-oligosaccharide-specific reduced elicitation, or LORE for short. All experiments indicated that this LORE protein activates the plant cell's immune system when it detects LPS molecules from the cell wall of certain bacteria.

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Research news andreas.battenberg@tum.de news-35335 Thu, 11 Apr 2019 19:00:00 +0200
A vertical take-off into the mobility of tomorrow http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35355/ In the near future we may see electric vertical take-off aircraft taking passengers to their destinations as aerial taxis high above traffic jams. But the flight system controls for these aircraft still represent a major challenge. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have applied their enormous expertise in this area to develop a control technology which is now being used in the prototype V600 from AutoFlightX.

Helicopters and multicopters can take off and land vertically, but they are not very efficient when it comes to cruise flight. Classic cruising aircraft on the other hand are efficient over longer distances, but they require a take-off and landing runway. A transition aircraft combines the respective advantages: Propellers are used to take off and land vertically; at the same time the aircraft has fixed wings for the transition to efficient cruise flight.

During vertical take-off the transitional aircraft is in hover mode. This is followed by the transition mode during which the aircraft goes from hover mode to the third mode: Forward flight, technically referred to as cruise flight. "There has not yet been a manned flight in an aerial taxi prototype like this in Germany," says Franz Sax of the TUM Chair of Flight System Dynamics, where researchers have been working on the development of flight control systems for many years.

The company AutoFlightX, located in Gilching near Munich, is collaborating with the TUM Chair on the development of its flying taxi prototype. Matthias Bittner, Chief Operating Officer: "We want to build an air taxi which is easy to launch and land vertically, but which is still capable of the most efficient possible longer distance flight. The biggest challenges here are flight control and flight stabilization, making sure the aircraft stays airborne even under difficult conditions."

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Research news stefanie.reiffert@tum.de news-35332 Tue, 16 Apr 2019 11:19:20 +0200
Who will win the Game of Thrones? http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35361/ Students at the Technical University of Munich developed an application that scours the web for data about Game of Thrones, then crunches the numbers using a set of artificial intelligence algorithms that they created to predict the survival chances of each of the Game of Thrones characters. Back in 2016 and just before the airing of Season 6, students of the same course created an algorithm that accurately predicted Jon Snow’s resurrection.

The algorithms developed now by the students predicts that Daenerys Targaryen has the highest chance (99%) of surviving the harrowing GoT world. Her Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister, also has a promising 97% survival rate. Survival rates are predicted using longevity analysis – a technique similar to scientific studies that examine the effects of treatments and complications on cancer patients. The full list of characters and their survival chances are available online at https://got.show.

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Campus news andreas.battenberg@tum.de news-35360 Tue, 09 Apr 2019 16:05:00 +0200
Yellow pigments protect bacteria http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35366/ Aryl polyenes are yellow pigments that are produced by many types of bacteria. They are stored in the bacteria membrane and protect the bacteria from oxidative stress, particularly from reactive oxygen species.

As these damage the cells, bacteria try to prevent them from entering through the membrane. Research has already established which proteins are responsible for the formation of aryl polyenes; however, it was unclear how exactly the yellow pigments are build up.

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Research news andreas.battenberg@tum.de news-35365 Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:45:00 +0200
"Energy supply can trigger an economic boom in Africa" http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35328/ Discussions on new business ventures mostly relate to Silicon Valley or European start-ups. At first glance, Mali would seem to be an unusual location for research into entrepreneurship.

But there are some interesting issues at play there. We want to find out whether – and which – entrepreneurial activities will appear there when one of the basic conditions for most business ventures is created, namely an energy supply.

Does that mean that you are studying rural areas?

Yes, we are going to study three villages where our project partners, the social business Africa GreenTec, is setting up small solar power stations and local power networks. Before they go into operation, we will go from house to house to assess the baseline situation: Are there already self-employed businesspeople and micro-enterprises active in these areas? What energy sources are available? And how willing are people to pay for electric power?

How much do researchers know about attitudes to entrepreneurship in the countries south of the Sahara?

We can look at figures from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual worldwide assessment on the willingness to start a business. But in Africa, studies like these only survey the educated upper classes in major cities. They tell us nothing about the situation in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. We're going directly to the people there. Many of them can't read or write, but are nevertheless starting businesses. For our long-term case studies, we will survey 10 to 20 people every six months in each case.

What forms of start-ups do you think are possible?

First, we're talking about micro-enterprises, for example an internet kiosk or a TV bar. Market people who have always sold food could now store and process it and hire one or two people to help them. We also want to assess the changes seen with existing micro-enterprises, for example small craft businesses that will be able to use new tools or machines to produce more or different things.

Are there country-specific factors that can determine whether companies succeed?

Compared to Europe, we see two important differences: First, there is the huge role of the family. Where we live, perhaps the parents play a certain role in a moral and financial sense. But in most African countries, there is a much greater social commitment to the entire extended family, which, for successful people, also entails financial commitments. We want to investigate how the new businesses deal with that, how the family situation changes, and which paths women take. One example would be if women from several families were to set up businesses together, because they would then have a valid reason for not withdrawing money from the company.

The second point is the importance of the informal economy. The majority of companies in rural areas of Mali are not registered and pay no taxes. How do entrepreneurial opportunities arise and develop in that kind of context? What happens when a micro-enterprise grows and starts to employ people? Does it then make sense to register the business formally?

Who do you expect to benefit from your results?

Based on this pilot project, we plan to work together with African universities and other European technical universities to conduct extensive surveys in several African countries. With the results, we hope to help policy makers and the business community in utilizing the enormous potential of this continent. 600 million people in Africa have no electricity, above all in rural areas. We are convinced that this situation is comparable to the development in rural areas of Germany around 100 years ago: The opportunities presented by the availability of energy, if used properly, can trigger an economic boom.

More Information:

In 2018 TUM launched an initiative for long-term, intensive cooperation in research, teaching and entrepreneurship with African partners. The first example is the agreement with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. The initiative will build on the 140 projects and exchange programs in which TUM is already cooperating with institutions in 20 African countries.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Frank-Martin Belz
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Professorship of Corporate Sustainability
Tel.: +49 8161 71 3279
frank.belz(at)tum.de

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Research news klaus.becker@tum.de news-35327 Fri, 05 Apr 2019 10:00:00 +0200
Black nanoparticles slow the growth of tumors http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/article/35325/ Nanoparticles are considered a promising weapon in the fight against tumors due to the fact that tumor tissue absorbs them more readily than healthy cells because their vascular system is more permeable. A good example is provided by outer membrane vesicles (OMVs), which are basically small bubbles surrounded by bacterial membrane. These 20- to 200-nanometer particles are of interest because they are biocompatible, biodegradable and can be easily and inexpensively produced in bacteria, even in large volumes. Once loaded with medicinal active agents, they are easy to administer.

Nanoparticles carrying a black cargo

The huge potential of OMVs in tumor diagnosis and treatment has been demonstrated by Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos, Professor of Biological Imaging at TUM, and his team. Their work builds on the characteristic properties of OMVs and melanin.'

Dr. Vipul Gujrati, first author of the study, explains the principle: “Melanin absorbs light very readily – even in the infrared spectrum. We use precisely this light in our optoacoustic imaging technique for tumor diagnosis. It simultaneously converts this absorbed energy into heat, which is then emitted. Heat is also a way to combat tumors – other researchers are currently exploring this method in clinical trials.”

Optoacoustics, a method which has been significantly advanced by Ntziachristos, combines the benefits of optical imaging and ultrasound technology. Weak laser pulses gently heat the tissue, causing it to briefly expand very slightly. Ultrasound signals are produced when the tissue contracts again as it cools down. The measured signals vary depending on the tissue type. The scientists record them with special detectors and “translate” them into three-dimensional images. Sensor molecules or probes (such as OMVs) can improve the specificity and accuracy of the technique even further.

Heat build-up reduces tumor growth

The scientists initially had to overcome a problem specific to melanin: It is not very water-soluble and therefore difficult to administer. This is where the OMVs came into play. The researchers engineered bacteria in such a way that they produce melanin and store it in their membrane derived nanoparticles. They then tested the black nanoparticles in mice which had tumors in their lower back region. The particles were injected directly into the tumor, which was excited with infrared laser pulses as part of the optoacoustic procedure.

OMVs proved to be suitable sensor probes for this diagnosis technique because they delivered sharp, high-contrast images of the tumor. They are also well-suited to photothermal therapy approaches, where the tumor tissue is heated with stronger laser pulses in order to kill the cancer cells. The melanin in the nanoparticles caused the temperature of the tumor tissue to rise from 37 °C to up to 56 °C. Control tumors with no melanin only reached a maximum temperature of 39 °C. In the ten days following the treatment, the tumors grew at a significantly slower rate than those in the control group that had not received melanin OMVs. This heat effect was amplified by another positive effect of the particles: By causing a slight non-specific inflammation in the tumor tissue, the immune system was triggered to attack the tumor.

“Our melanin nanoparticles fit into the new medical field of theranostics – where therapy and diagnostics are combined. This makes them a highly interesting option for use in clinical practice,” says Ntziachristos. The scientists will now develop their OMVs further to bring them into clinical use in the future.
 

Publication:

Vipul Gujrati, Jaya Prakash, Jaber Malekzadeh-Najafabadi, Andre Stiel, Uwe Klemm, Gabriele Mettenleiter, Michaela Aichler, Axel Walch and Vasilis Ntziachristos: Bioengineered bacterial vesicles as biological nanoheaters for optoacoustic imaging, Nature Communications, March 7, 2019, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09034-y

More information:

Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos holds a chair at TUM. He is research group leader at the Central Institute for Translational Cancer Research at TUM (TranslaTUM) and Director of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Contact:

Dr. Vipul Gujrati
Scientist at the Chair of Biological Imaging
Technical University of Munich
Tel.: +49 (0)89 3187- 1244
vipul.gujrati(at)tum.de

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Research news vera.siegler@tum.de news-35324 Thu, 04 Apr 2019 10:51:00 +0200