Research magazine "Ruperto Carola" - fascicle 1/95


Ruperto Carola 1/95 Nietzsche and Wagner: an Ambivalent Passion The title story of the 1/95 issue of "Ruperto Carola", Heidelberg University's research news magazine, is the story of an ambivalent passion. Despite vitriolic criticism of Wagner's works and the cessation of his personal relations with the composer, the profound links associating Friedrich Nietzsche with the creator of Tristan and Parsifal remained unsevered to the end of his life. Nietzsche's "break" with Wagner was never as rigorous as posterity has been led to believe. Heidelberg Germanist Dieter Borchmeyer has researched the relations between Nietzsche and Wagner and describes his findings in the 1/95 issue of the magazine. Other subjects dealt with in this issue range from a minuscule imbalance in the early stages of the evolution of the universe, through undesirable learning processes in the cells of the spinal cord and the latest progress in neuropeptide and stroke research to organic chemistry. In the editorial, deputy vice-chancellor Prof. Christine Heym outlines a new research concept - Heidelberg's planned participation in the worldwide Human Genome Project. A genome is the genetic programme characteristic of each living organism. It consists of the totality of all genes, and hence of the hereditary blueprint responsible for the development of form and function of cells, organs and the entire organism. Illnesses can be regarded as the result of defects in the transmission of the genetic programme. "Knowledge of the human genome and what can go wrong with it is thus the prerequisite for the understanding of the sources not only of hereditary diseases but also of cancer and various other illnesses caused by old-age or by neurological disorders," Heym writes. Heidelberg intends to play a leading role within Germany's participation in the Human Genome Project. To this end, the University has joined forces with a number of non- university institutions - the German Cancer Research Centre, the European Molecular Biology Lab and the Max Planck Institute of Medical Research - to elaborate and put forward a research concept underwritten by all these research centres. The fact that the sky is full of stars and that the universe is not just one gaping hole is by no means self-evident. When our universe exploded into being there was an equilibrium of mutually destructive particles. Did bubbles forming during those cosmic labour pains generate the minuscule imbalance between material and anti-material necessary to catapult galaxies, stars and mankind into being? In the first article of the new issue, Christof Wetterich of the Institute of Theoretical Physics describes the exciting events taking place in the "electroweak" phase transition during the initial stages of the Big Bang. From here we move on to chronic pain. Whereas acute pain can usually be effectively combated with the appropriate medication, it is frequently difficult to provide relief for patients suffering from chronic pain. At the Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Siegfried Mense and his team have been testing the responses to pain stimuli displayed by neurons in the spinal cord. Chronic pain that persists long after the injury initially causing it has healed are possibly the product of undesirable learning processes undergone by the nerve cells in the spinal cord. The next article is devoted to neurobiology and entitled "Lightning Messengers". To pass on information from cell to cell, the human body has reliable messengers at its disposal, for example hormones such as insulin. Unfortunately they have one drawback - they can only be synthesised in the body of the cell. But in some neurons the place where they are needed for transmission of information is as far away from the cell body as a 300-meter crater on the moon is from the centre of Heidelberg. Wieland Hüttner lets us into the incredible tricks the nerve cell gets up to in order to solve the problem. After Borchmeyer's title story there then follows a report on the latest medical research into strokes. Every year 500,000 people in Germany alone suffer from strokes. If help is provided in the immediate aftermath the chances of restricting brain damage are good. The University of Heidelberg is a major centre of stroke research, with cooperation taking place between the Neurological Clinics in Heidelberg and Mannheim and the University's Physiological Institute. Michael Hennerici and Wolfgang Kuschinsky fill us in on these joint efforts. Finally, we take a look at the field of organic chemistry. Chemical molecules under "strain" are the speciality of Rolf Gleiter and his co-workers. After their article on cage molecules come the News and Views sections of the magazine with reports on external research funding, projects conducted by young researchers and the regular report on the activities of the Heidelberg University Foundation. "Ruperto Carola" costs 10 marks plus postage for individual issues, 5 marks for students. Orders for single copies or for the "Promotion Subscription" (4 issues by mail for 60 marks) should be placed with the Pressestelle der Universität, Postfach 105760, 69047 Heidelberg. Up
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