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19 September 2006

Subtle Warnings: Imminent Brain Infarction

In the title story of the Heidelberg research magazine "Ruperto Carola 2/2006" neurosurgeons Oliver Sakowitz, Daniel Haux and Andreas Unterberg outline early changes indicating the imminent danger of delayed brain damage — Other articles in the new edition range from astronomy, recent history and archaeology to cancer research and legal history

Despite all the boons of modern medicine, survivors of severe brain impairment caused by an accident, bleeding or a stroke are still in danger. Delayed brain damage can frequently undo the effects of initially successful treatment. One such factor is the "vasospasm", a narrowing of the blood vessels typically occurring about a week after the event triggering the impairment. Its effects can be fatal. In the title story of the new issue of the Heidelberg research magazine "Ruperto Carola" (2/2006), Oliver Sakowitz, Daniel Haux and Andreas Unterberg of the University of Heidelberg's Neurosurgical Hospital discuss early changes indicating the imminent danger of such damage. The scientists' objective is to develop new therapeutic approaches with which the root cause of this dangerous vascular impairment can be treated. The other articles in the new edition range from astronomy, recent history and archaeology to cancer research and legal history.

Editorial: Rector Prof. Hommelhoff on the fragile foundations of free academic activity

Like many other universities in Germany, Heidelberg has long been undertaking the attempt to penetrate the darkest chapters of its history from various perspectives and viewpoints. "The essential thing," writes Rector Prof. Dr. Hommelhoff in the editorial on a new Springer publication of almost 1,300 pages, "is not to consign to oblivion what happened under the aegis of the Nazis but to preserve the memory of it as a warning for future generations." The most extensive foray in this direction has been undertaken by the Heidelberg historians Wolfgang Eckart, Volker Sellin and Eike Wolgast with their joint publication "The University of Heidelberg in the National Socialist Period".

Hommelhoff: "The section on psychiatry is the one that provokes the greatest unremitting horror and the deepest revulsion. The murderous euthanasia programme was very largely devised and implemented by the psychiatric department in Heidelberg. It is here that the name of the University of Heidelberg was sullied in the most heinous manner and for a very long time to come."

In the section on the leading administrative bodies of the University during the Nazi era the editors expose the central actors of those dark days in no uncertain terms. "In this they are quite rightly not content to indicate the parameters that robbed the University of Heidelberg of its reputation for liberality and cosmopolitanism by merely referring to the laws, edicts and stipulations reflecting this process," says the Rector. "Instead, they unerringly point the finger at the ideologically warped rectors, teachers and student leaders who did all they could to ensure that the University was fully geared to the tenets of National Socialism ('our blood-bound world-view stands above science and scholarship') and that the very last Jews and their relatives, as well as the critics of the regime, were vilified and hounded out of the University."

Hommelhoff closes by recommending that all those with positions of responsibility at the University — notably responsibility for student education and the welfare of junior academics — should read this book "to impress upon themselves just how fragile the foundations are on which we today are privileged to engage in academic activity."

Siblings of the Earth

Is there a planet similar to Earth out there somewhere in the universe? This question intrigues astronomers and laypersons alike. Scientists need a lot of patience to discover the heavenly bodies circling other stars and the methods they use are expensive and time-consuming. But recently one of these methods, the "gravity lens effect", was successful. In "Ruperto Carola 2/2006" Joachim Wambsganß of the University of Heidelberg's Centre for Astronomy tells the exciting story of the discovery of a planet more similar to Earth than any other "exoplanet" detected so far. It bears the unromantic name "OGLE-2005-BLG-390-Lb".

Picture Power

Fugitive treks at the end of World War Two, a naked Vietnamese girl running along a road and screaming with fear, Willy Brandt kneeling before the monument commemorating the Warsaw ghetto uprising — hardly do we read these words than our minds call up the corresponding pictures. But images are not the incontestable guarantors of past reality that we consider them to be. Edgar Wolfrum and Cord Arendes of the Department of History explain in the next article how pictures and photos develop a dynamic of their own. The authors advocate enhancing the media competence of beholders in the framework of a "visual" history of the recent past. Otherwise, they warn, "catchwords" will soon be replaced by "catch images".

Play Dough and Laser Scanners

Equipped with hi-tech equipment like GPS receivers and laser scanners, Heidelberg archaeologists made their way to India to investigate a fortification system dating from the age of the Maurya, an ancient Indian ruling dynasty. Paul Yule of the Department of Prehistory, Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology describes the unexpected obstacles the scientists had to cope with on the way. He also tells us of the findings they came up with, for which the archaeologists forsook their sophisticated gear and fell back on a handmade model made out of play dough to document ancient architectural remnants that they fear may soon no longer exist.

Supply Bottlenecks for Tumours

Tumours can only grow into a lethal danger if they succeed in linking up to the blood vessel system. To do this, tumour cells release proteins with which they attract blood vessels that subsequently supply them with oxygen and nutrients. Researchers have long been hunting for medicinal agents that can prevent this fateful formation of new blood vessels. Walter Nickel of the Biochemistry Centre of the University of Heidelberg outlines a new strategy with which tumour cells can be cut off from their supply lines. This strategy may one day be the basis for efficient medical treatment of cancer.

"A University of Jurists for Jurists"

A debt-ridden, academically insignificant provincial university with fewer than 50 students — that was the Unive4rsity of Heidelberg 200 years ago. Klaus-Peter Schroeder of the Faculty of Law tells us how, in a relatively short space of time, the moribund university was freed of its antiquated customs and became a vital locus of teaching and research. The successful revival of high-power legal studies made Heidelberg an attractive venue for students of other subjects as well. And much of what the author reports about the past sounds surprisingly modern.

"This Colossal Aridity and Wretchedness" — The University of Heidelberg in the Nazi Era

As early as the summer of 1933, two decisive foundations had been laid for the horrors to come. With the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 7 April began the first of three waves of dismissals affecting not only Jewish academics but also those who had made themselves politically unpopular with the Nazi regime. And the University Law passed in August 1933 ushered in the "Führer principle". There followed twelve years of ideologically motivated insanity, purges and militarisation. For "Ruperto Carola" Oliver Fink interviewed the three editors of the almost 1,300-page volume of collected articles on "The University of Heidelberg in the National Socialist Period" — historians Wolfgang Eckart, Volker Sellin and Eike Wolgast.

As always, the new issue rounds off with the permanent headings. The "Young Researchers" section is given over to a contribution by Jörg Zehelein entitled "When the heart gets out of step — New approaches to diagnosis and therapy". In "News and Views" former vice-Rector Angelos Chaniotis analyses the present situation in historical studies and the visibility of historical research for the public. "Sound, non-academic common sense has recognised something that research policy has failed to see: historians may not develop patents suitable for marketing, but they change the way we think about things." In conclusion Chaniotis calls for more resources and greater research-political flexibility for historical studies.

"Ruperto Carola" is published by Universitätsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg GmbH. Single copies cost € 5 plus postage. Like the special subscription offer (€ 30 for four issues) they can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 10 57 60, D-69047 Heidelberg. Gratis copies of earlier issues are available in the entrance area of the Old University (Grabengasse 1).

For more information and the complete articles of earlier issues (in German) go to www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/publikat.html

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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