Treating Organ Damage to Avoid Transplants


Diseases such as diabetes or hepatitis, or autoimmune diseases often lead to irreperable organ damage. Oftentimes a transplant is the only thing that helps those affected. However, suitable organs are not always available in time. Scientists at RWTH Aachen and the University of Bonn in SFB/TRR 57 are looking for alternative treatment methods. They research the source of so called organ fibrosis - the scarring of organs as a result of liver or kidney disease. The knowledge they gain is expected to help contribute to the development of innovative treatments, in order to avoid organ transplants.

  © Peter Winandy Researchers from transregional collaborative research area 57 developed a special process with a machine that is unique to all of Europe. The process enables liver and kidney cells produced through fibrosis to be isolated.

Basic researchers, immunologists, heptalogists, and nephrologists have come together in 17 partial projects in Aachen and Bonn. They conduct research in the transregional collaborative resarch area "Organ Fibrosis – from the Mechanisms of Damage to Influencing the Disease", in order to understand the disease mechanisms in organ fibrosis. The research process has been funded since January 1, 2009 as Transregio-SFB by the German Research Foundation and is currently entering its second funding period.

"Diseases like diabetes, hepatits, or autoimmune disorders destry healthy cell tissues," reports SFB Speaker Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Christian Trautwein. "As a result, scarring develops inside the body, just like on an open wound, the so called organ fibrosis. This changed cell tissue cannot carry out its organ specific functions long term anymore, resulting in organ failure," says the Director of the Department of Medicine III at Aachen University Hospital.

The fibroproliferative changes appear in a number of gastroenterological, nephrological, pulmonary, or cardiovascular diseases. As a result they were described as an pressing health problem in the current roadmap of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF.

SFB Researchers developed a process unique to all of Europe, in order to isolate fibroblasts and their precursor cells.

Research work until now prove that organ changes through fibrosis over a longer period of time are principally reversible. Scientists from SFB/TRR 57 are working on better understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of organ fibrosis and on developing new treatment methods. Liver and kidney fibrosis are being investigated, in order to identify mechanisms that affect many organs as well as those that are specific to certain organs

"Different cell systems are involved in the origination prozess of fibrosis. However certain cells – so called fibroblasts – in the chronically inflammed organs produce the damaging connective tissues, that leads to scarring and thus organ damage," explains Christian Trautwein. These fibroblasts and the precursor cells are at the focus of many of the Aachen-Bonn Transregio-SFB partial projects. In order to isolate and characterize these cells, the researchers developed a machine that is unique to all of Europe. It makes it possible to isolate fibroblast precursor cells in the liver or kidney and be kept in a culture. This allows researchers in the SFB team at both locations to use these cells at any time for research purposes.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christian Trautwein
Medizinische Klinik III
Universitätsklinikum Aachen
Telefon: 0241/80 80866