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uni'wissen 02-2013_ENG

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever studied biochemistry in Tübin- gen and Munich. He earned his PhD at the Max Planck In- stitute for Developmental Biol- ogy in Tübingen. After a spell as a postdoctoral researcher, he accepted a position in 1990 as assistant professor of ge- netics at the Harvard Medical School, USA. Since 1996 he has served as professor of de- velopmental biology at the Uni- versity of Freiburg. From 2001 to 2012 Driever coordinated the collaborative research cen- ter “Signaling Mechanisms in Embryogenesis and Organo- genesis.” He also founded the Center for Systems Biology at the University of Freiburg and served as its director from 2010 to 2012. Driever is a member of the Cluster of Ex- cellence BIOSS Centre for Bio- logical Signalling Studies and conducts research on the mod- el organism zebrafish regard- ing the regulation of cell behavior in early development and the formation of neuronal networks in the brain. Photo: BIOSS Further Reading Leichsenring, M./Maes, J./Mössner, R./ Driever, W./Onichtchouk, D. (2013): Pou5f1 transcription factor controls zygotic gene activation in verte- brates. In: Science 341/6149, pp. 1005–1009. doi: 10.1126/science.1242527 Tantin, D. (2013): Oct transcription factors in development and stem cells: Insights and mechanisms. In: Development 140/14, pp. 2857–2866. transformation of stem cells into highly special- ized zygotic cells, the biologists took a look at mesodermal cells in the zebrafish. Pou5f1 is also involved in switching on several genes that regulate the development of the mesoderm. Fur- ther signals determine which cells embark on which developmental path. Driever understands his group’s work as fun- damental research. However, the scientists par- ticipating in the University of Freiburg’s collaborative research center “Control of Cell Motility in Morphogenesis, Cancer Invasion, and Metastasis” also include experts on human biol- ogy and tumor research. Research on pluripo- tency presents an opportunity to breathe new life into cancer research, because cancer stem cells play an important role in tumor growth and me- tastasis formation. In addition, knowledge of the mechanisms governing the transition from stem cell to tissue cell is instrumental for growing re- placement tissue from stem cells. What are the next steps? “The balance be- tween pluripotency and development will remain the central theme,” says Daria Onichtchouk. The network of rules the researchers discovered in the zebrafish will enable them to investigate in detail how stem cells develop into stable special- ized cells. Not until it is possible to use artificial- ly created pluripotent stem cells to make stable body cells that do not cause cancer can they be put into medical practice. Dr. Daria Onichtchouk studied at the University of Moscow, Russia, and earned her PhD in Heidel- berg in 1999. From 1999 to 2001 she was a postdoc- toral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Bio- physical Chemistry in Göt- tingen. She then worked as a senior scientist at Develo- Gen AG, a company co- founded by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever. She has been employed by the Insti- tute of Developmental Biol- ogy of the University of Freiburg since 2006. Onichtchouk heads the project “Epigenetics of Ze- brafish Midblastula Transi- tion” at the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies. Her main research interest is control mecha- nisms in the earliest stages of development in zebrafish. Photo: private Stem cells develop into ectodermal cells, which later become part of the skin or the nervous sys- tem; mesodermal cells, which form blood or mus- cles; or entodermal cells, which line the digestive tract. In this zebrafish em- bryo, the mesodermal cells are shown in color. Photo: Wolfgang Driever’s research group 15