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15 December 1999

Ruperto Carola 3/99
University of Heidelberg Research Magazine

featuring
Gene Therapy with Suicide Genes: A New Weapon against Tumours?

"Ruperto Carola" 3/99, the University of Heidelberg's research round-up: Title story by Uwe Haberkorn on the intriguing idea of driving tumour cells to suicide - Further topics: Five acid tests for law in Europe (Paul Kirchhof); Intracellular logistics (Constanze Reinhard/Felix Wieland); German Hunger Aid (Wolfgang Eckart); Consensus or conflict in Japan? (Wolfgang Seifert); Heavy ions in the fight against cancer (Jürgen Debus/Michael Wannenmacher)

The idea is an intriguing one: forcing tumour cells to commit suicide by implanting genes that make the degenerate cells (and only those) react sensitively to cancer medication. In the latest edition of "Ruperto Carola", Uwe Haberkorn of the University Radiology Hospital describes the principle behind this new gene therapy for tumours, indicates ways of optimising it and talks about the obstacles still in its path. The other articles come from the fields of European law, biochemistry, history of medicine and Japanese studies. This issue also has the final instalment in the series of major articles presenting the latest results and perspectives in heavy ion therapy research.

Vice-rector Horner's editorial: the University of Heidelberg welcomes competent expert evaluation but criticism of insufficient cooperation between universities and non-university institutions is not true of Heidelberg

In his editorial, vice-rector Prof. Dr. Heinz Horner gives his views on the report "Research Support in Germany: System Evaluation of the German Research Councl and the Max Planck Society" submitted by a top-ranking international commission and representing the fruits of a year's work. It contains criticism of the German Research Council and the "responsive" character of the funding it provides, suggesting that "the demand for external funding is sluiggish in reflecting new developments in forms and fields of research because it is determined by the way institutions of higher education are organised into disciplines". The universities also come in for strictures in connection with the lack of interdisciplinary structuring. In the editorial, Horner's rejoinder emphasises the way in which the University of Heidelberg with its various central interdisciplinary institutions has anticipated on the commission's recommendations. "In addition, the criticism of insufficient cooperation in research and teaching between universities and non-university research institutions is not true of Heidelberg. Generally speaking, Horner says, the University welcomes competent evaluation of the kind undertaken by this international commission of experts and the stimulating ideas resulting from it.

Five acid tests for law in Europe

A citizen of the European Union is not a national of the United States of Europe but a human rights holder in a confederacy of European states. In his article, Paul Kirchhof of the Institute of German and European Administrative Law outlines the pioneering and unprecedented organisational form of the European Union as a community of constitutional states and indicates five acid tests for the evolution of law in Europa.

Intracellular logistics

In the life of the cell carefully produced miniature containers ensure the transportation of vital goods. Constanze Reinhard and Felix Wieland of Heidelberg University's Biochemistry Centre describe what these "transport vesicles" are made up of, how they originate and when they are formed. They also explain the biochemical tricks necessary to trace the complex transport routes in the infinitesimal compass of the cell and indicate the significance of in-depth insights into the inner life of the cell for the development of new therapies.

"…to provide effective aid to the best of our ability"

This was the undertaking given in 1921 by German author Gerhart Hauptmann to his Russian fellow writer Maxim Gorki in response to the latter's dramatic bid to draw the attention of the world to the hardships his compatriots were suffering. Gorki's appeal did not fall on deaf ears. The young Weimar Republic was one of the first western countries to attempt to organise a central aid system sending food and medical supplies to Russia. It was the birth of the "German Hunger Aid" campaign. Wolfgang Eckart of the Institute of Medical History explains the aims and the effects of a programme whose humanitarian activities were not solely altruistic.

Consensus or conflict in Japan?

After the United States of America, Japan is the world's biggest economic power. This would hardly be the case if what were originally feudal structures had not changed dramatically since the 1920s. In his article Wolfgang Seifert of the University's Department of Japanese Studies discusses the degree to which social interests get articulated in Japan and since when this has been taking place, describing the confederations of trade unions as interest groups and providing an in-depth picture of present-day Japanese society.

Heavy ions in the fight against cancer

After years of intensive preparation heavy-ion radiation therapy for cancer patients began in Germany in December 1997. Since then 42 patients have been treated at Europe's only subatomic particle accelerator located at the Heavy Ion Research Society in Darmstadt. All of them had tumours that had proved highly resistant to conventional radiation therapy. Jürgen Debus and Michael Wannenmacher of the University Radiological Hospital in Heidelberg report on the latest results and perspectives of heavy-ion therapy.

The permanent columns "Young Scientists Report", "News and Views", "News from the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg Foundation" and "External Funding" round off the magazine. The "Young Scientist Report" column centres on integrated management systems and the bid for more quality, environmental protection and work safety. The basis is a doctoral dissertation by Alexander Pischon which has received the Young Scientists' Prize of the Baden-Württemberg Confederation of Metalworking Industries. "News and Views" hosts a debate between Eike Wolgast (pro) and Felix Wieland (contra) on the subject of the Habilitation, still normally the gateway to professorships at German universities.

"Ruperto Carola" is printed by Universitätsverlag C. Winter - Heidelberger Verlagsanstalt. Single copies cost DM 10,- plus postage (DM 5,- for students). Like the special support subscription (DM 60,- for 4 issues), they can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 105760, D-69047 Heidelberg. Gratis copies of earlier issues are available for inspection in the foyer of the Old University (Grabengasse 1).

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de


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