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New Collaborative Research Centre and three extensions for the University of Cologne

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved a Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) in the field of ophthalmology / CRCs on cell death, Arctic climate research and the variety of language use are being further funded

A new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of Cologne will receive funding from the DFG for the next three years and nine months to investigate age-related eye diseases that lead to blindness. Three other existing CRCs from the fields of cell death research, climate change in the Arctic and language variation are entering the next funding period: They will receive further millions of funding to continue their work.

“I would like to congratulate all the scientists involved on this success. We are pleased that the projects applied for are being funded. The funding approval shows that the University of Cologne is an outstanding location for forward-looking and socially highly relevant research,” said Professor Dr Joybrato Mukherjee, Rector of the University of Cologne.

Fight against blindness

The new CRC 1607 ‘Immunomodulating and anti(lymph)angiogenic therapies for age-related eye diseases that can lead to blindness’ investigates how eye diseases that occur in old age and develops novel treatments for these diseases. The spokesperson is Professor Dr Claus Cursiefen, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Hospital Cologne.

The causes of several blinding eye diseases are poorly understood and there are no good treatments. Many of these diseases are age-dependent, so they are likely to be more common in an ageing society. Apart from the loss of quality of life and independence for individuals, these diseases will therefore burden society as a whole.

Previous research – also in the DFG Research Unit 2240 at the Department of Ophthalmology at University of Cologne – indicates that defective cellular immune responses (inflammation) and/or pathological growth of blood and lymph vessels in later life lead to a large number of age-associated eye diseases. These include ‘common diseases’ such as age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome and glaucoma or corneal dystrophy. A large proportion of the population suffers from these and other age-related eye diseases. More than half of those over sixty are affected.

The scientists at the new Collaborative Research Centre want to make significant progress in understanding the diseases and in clinical translation – in other words, the transition from basic research to clinical application. “CRC 1607 has a unique and important position, as there is currently no other international research centre that focuses on the role of lymph and blood vessels and immune cells in age-associated eye diseases,” said Professor Dr Cursiefen. “We are therefore very pleased that the DFG's funding commitment enables us to close this gap. Since this is only the second CRC in the field of ophthalmology in the history of the DFG, this is also a huge benefit for our field and our patients.” The aim of the researchers is to decipher the disease mechanisms of age-associated eye diseases with particular attention to the role of cellular immunity and inflammation as well as the growth of blood and lymph vessels. Innovative new treatment concepts are to be developed which are built on this.

The new CRC will receive funding of around 13 million euros from the DFG for the first funding phase until the end of 2027.

Keeping tissues healthy

CRC 1403 ‘Cell death in immunity, inflammation and diseases‘, which was established at the University of Cologne in 2020, will receive a total of around 12.6 million euros for a further four years.

The scientists of the Collaborative Research Centre 1403 are pursuing a multidisciplinary approach to provide answers to new questions in cell death research. Cell death is a fundamental biological process in multicellular organisms that is crucial to maintaining tissue functions, for example when they come into contact with and fight off pathogens. Recent research has shown that cells can choose between different types of regulated cell death, which have different effects on the surrounding tissue and trigger corresponding reactions in its cells. The aim of CRC 1403 is to understand the regulatory mechanisms as well as the physiological and pathological consequences of different types of cell death in the organism.

The speakers are Professor Dr Manolis Pasparakis from the Institute for Genetics and Professor Dr Hamid Kashkar (deputy spokesperson) from the Institute for Molecular Immunology (both of the University of Cologne). Not only genetics but also botany, dermatology, internal medicine and molecular immunology are involved in the 21 sub-projects. CRC 1403 is a cooperation between the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, as well as partners at the University of Bonn, the LMU Munich, the University of Freiburg and the German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ). “We are very pleased that we can continue our interdisciplinary collaboration on the subject of cell death, immunity, inflammation and diseases. This additional funding will allow us to gain important insights into the mechanisms of cell death and immunity and to use them for a better understanding of the pathophysiology of inflammatory diseases,” said Professor Dr Manolis Pasparakis.

Understanding Arctic climate change

The aim of CRC/TR 172 ‘Arctic Amplification (AC)³’, which has been funded since 2016 and has now been extended, is to monitor and understand the dramatic climate development in the Arctic using various methods to improve the reliability of models for predicting observed on-site warming. The above-average warming – known as Arctic amplification – is due to a variety of factors that affect the climate in the Arctic, but are not yet fully known.

In the first phase, the participating researchers carried out three complex cloud measurement operations in the Arctic. In the second phase, the investigations were extended to the inner Arctic and to a whole year as an observation period in order to quantify seasonal differences. At the same time a unique modelling chain has been developed. In the following third funding period, the focus will be on bringing together the various observations and modelling approaches to form an overall understanding for better predictions. A special focus is on how clouds develop during the transport of air masses into and out of the Arctic. In addition to analyses of the MOSAiC campaign, the long-term measurements in Ny-Ålesund and modelling on the hectometer scale, special measurements will be carried out with the new Cologne-based GRAWAC large-scale instruments from the Polar 5 aircraft over sea ice.

The approved sum for the new funding period amounts to almost 4 million euros. Co-applicant Professor Dr Susanne Crewell from the University of Cologne says: “In recent years, we have gained a large number of new measurements in the Arctic that show the strong dynamics of the climate system there. Over the next four years, we now want to use these to improve numerical models in order to better predict the future development of the Arctic in a warmer climate.”

Register knowledge of speakers

The Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1412 ‘Register: Language Users’ Knowledge of Situational-Functional Variation’ with Humboldt-Universität Berlin as the host university will be funded with around 9 million euros over a second period (from 2024 to 2027). The CRC investigates aspects of the register knowledge of speakers. Register knowledge refers to the ability to adapt one's linguistic behaviour according to the situation and to distinguish, for example, between conversations with family members at home from discussions in official situations. Professor Aria Adli of the University of Cologne contributes to this CRC with the subproject ‘Disentangling cross-linguistic and language-specific aspects of register variation’, which he leads together with his colleagues Professor Elisabeth Verhoeven and Dr Jozina Vander Klok in Berlin.

Competent speakers can adapt their linguistic behaviour at every level according to the situation: For example, they know in which situations a certain distance and expressions of politeness are appropriate, or that one uses less complex sentences when addressing children, while precise specialist terms are expected at a scientific event. Research at CRC 1412 focuses on the following questions: What is the content of register knowledge? What situational parameters play a role? How can register knowledge be adequately modelled? The CRC examines these questions on the basis of a range of phenomena at all linguistic levels in different languages and cultural areas. Various methods (multifactorial corpus analysis, experimental methods) are used and combined.

“The extension of our funding will allow us to better understand a topic rooted in everyday life: Everyone learns and knows that their linguistic behaviour needs to fit the situation. But what exactly is adapted, when do we change the way we speak, and what are the driving forces behind it? We want and need to explore these issues more thoroughly. This CRC is also characterized by the successful collaboration of renowned German universities and research institutions," said Professor Adli.

Media Contact:

CRC 1607: Professor Dr Claus Cursiefen
Centre for Ophthalmology / University Hospital Cologne
+49 221 478-5094

CRC 1403: Professor Dr Manolis Pasparakis
Institute for Genetics
+49 221 478-84351

CRC/TRR 172: Professor Dr Susanne Crewell
Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology
+49 221 470-5286

CRC 1412: Professor Aria Adli
Department of Romance Studies
+49 221 470 4448

Press and Communications Team:

Jan Voelkel
+49 221 470 2356


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