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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

Juniorprofessor Dr. Winfried Römer studied chemistry, biology, and secondary education in Regensburg from 1996 to 2001. In 2004 he earned his doctorate at the Insti- tute of Analytical Chemistry and Chemo- and Biosensor Technology of the Univer- sity of Regensburg. From 2004 to 2008 he worked as a postdoc at the Curie Institute in Paris, France. Afterwards, he served as a research assistant at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and the Curie ­Institute. In April 2011 he accepted a junior profes- sorship at the Institute of Biology II and the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS, ­Centre for Biological ­Signalling Studies, of the University of Freiburg. His research interests include fundamental research on how bacteria and toxins enter into the human cell. this tactic to hide in the cell, where it can escape from the body’s immune reaction,” says Römer. “We are concentrating initially on the first step of the process by which the pathogen enters the cell – its first contact with a lung cell.” Seconds afterward, signaling processes are activated in the cell. “We want to find out how the signal is generated and which signal is responsible for which process.” The scientists have set their sights on the entire cascade of signals. The Search for Inhibitors Even though the interaction between pseudo- monas aeruginosa and lipids from the host cell’s membrane form the core of the research, Win- fried Römer and his signaling researchers are also developing strategies to prevent the bacte- rial invasion. They know that every cell also has means of defense at its disposal. The scientists are thus searching for specific inhibitors that can take a stand against the invaders. “The final step of our research will be to identify these small molecule inhibitors.” However, they have to be neutral and cannot become dangerous for hu- mans. Römer believes that it will be possible use them to block the lectin-dependent cellular in- take of the pathogens right from the start. “Once we have characterized the inhibitors, we will know how to prevent an infection, and this would constitute a milestone in research.” And it would finally rob pseudomonas aeruginosa of its power to frighten us. A toxin (in red) attaches itself to a membrane and creates a tube-shaped cavity in the cell. Here, the process is taking place in an artificial ­bubble, a liposome. 15