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4 December 2006

Ruperto Carola 3/2006: The Two Faces of Pain

In the title story of the Heidelberg research magazine Rohini Kuner of the University of Heidelberg's Pharmacological Institute describes recent work indicating how pain etches itself into the memory of the nervous system — Other topics dealt with in the new edition come from the fields of historical studies, plant sciences and oncology

Pain is very much a Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon. On the one hand it warns us of incipient harm, on the other it can turn into a pitiless tyrant tormenting us incessantly and without reason. These two faces of pain are still a mystery for scientists and doctors. How can a protective function mutate into a chronic ailment? How can chronic pain be treated more effectively? In the title story of the Heidelberg research magazine "Ruperto Carola 3/2006" Rohini Kuner of the University of Heidelberg's Pharmacological Institute describes recent work indicating how pain etches itself into the memory of the nervous system. Other topics dealt with in the magazine come from the fields of historical studies, plant sciences and oncology.

The Rector in the Editorial: "Allegiance to the full-scale university" in the second round of the Initiative for Excellence

The University of Heidelberg has gone into the second round of the Initiative for Excellence with eleven outline proposals for the first and second lines of funding, six of them for Graduate Schools and five for Clusters of Excellence. "This time again our allegiance to the principle of the full-scale university is mirrored in the outline proposals from the humanities, cultural studies and normative sciences," writes Rector Peter Hommelhoff in the editorial of the new issue of "Ruperto Carola". The Heidelberg Graduate School for Cultural Studies is designed to provide graduates from the Faculties of Theology, Philosophy, Modern Languages and Behavioural and Cultural Studies with excellent prospects for setting out on an academic career. The Heidelberg proposal for the Cluster of Excellence named Asia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows discusses the changes and inversions in the relations between the cultures of Asia and Europe in the course of history as an asymmetrical transfer in a global context. The draft proposal for a further Cluster entitled Norm Formation in the 21st Century concentrates on norms and normative systems as legal and non-legal, culture- and language-bound standards for the evaluative assessment of human action.

"These three outlines bear indisputable testimony to the fact that the University of Heidelberg cannot be reduced to its natural sciences and life sciences, powerful though they are," says Hommelhoff. A university at which great minds like Max Weber, Karl Jaspers and Hans-Georg Gadamer have left their indelible imprint on the intellectual world owes a special commitment to the humanities and the normative sciences, he continues.

The outlines for the Graduate Schools International Public Health, Mathematical Computational Methods for the Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Translational Neuroscience "give in my eyes an impressive indication of the academic profile of the University of Heidelberg," Hommelhoff asserts. And with these and the other Cluster proposals "we are confident that we can convince the international adjudicators of the Initiative for Excellence". These are Translational Oncology, Scientific Computing and Heidelberg CASTEL: Cluster of ASTrophysicaL Excellence.

Hommelhoff: "As for the third line of funding from the Initiative for Excellence, the University is fully and seriously committed to the continuation of the creative thinking and learning process it has embarked upon. After the experiences gleaned from the first round we hope this time to be able to convince the adjudicators of the academic heft of the University of Heidelberg and its potential for the future."

Realms of memory from the European Middle Ages

The present always fashions its own past. In "Ruperto Carola 3/2006", historian Bernd Schneidmüller of the Heidelberg Centre for Historical and Cultural Studies asks how the concept of "realms of national memory" (Erinnerungsorte) can be applied to the European Middle Ages. The author has compiled his examples with artful irony and provokes his readers with unexpected parallels to the present that are liable to upend a number of received assumptions in our collective understanding of European history.

Why do onions contain sulphur?

Highly reactive, universally available and extremely versatile — its special features make sulphur a supremely important element in biological systems, all the way from primitive bacteria to plants and human beings. Rüdiger Hell of the Heidelberg Institute of Plant Sciences explains the significance of sulphur in both the animate and inanimate world and tells us how the latest findings on sulphur metabolism can help to breed plants with enhanced properties.

Marshalling forces

The ambition of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Heidelberg is to be a site of research, treatment, preventive care and education at one and the same time. In the new issue, Christof von Kalle, directorate spokesman and head of the Translational Oncology Department, and Dirk Jäger, director of the Medical Oncology Department, explain how it sets out to live up to this ambition and how the marshalling of all available forces can help to quickly implement innovative research in new treatment approaches directly benefiting cancer patients.

Global players: pathogens without frontiers

The severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS and the mad cow disease BSE are prominent examples of "zoonoses", infections and diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. The infective agents involved in zoonoses can not only flit easily from species to species but also from country to country, which means that they can rapidly become an international hazard. Madeleine Herren-Oesch of the Centre for European Historical and Cultural Studies impresses on us the fact that the full impact of infective agents unfazed by physical and geographical frontiers can only be studied properly if science itself operates at a cross-frontier level.

As before, "Ruperto Carola 3/2006" magazine rounds off with its regular fixtures. In the "Opinions" section, chief administrative officer Dr. Marina Frost explains why the higher-education sector in Germany has been "cut to the quick" by the recent federal reform bill. In the "Young Researchers" section, Ann-Kristin Müller of the Institute of Hygiene maps out the new avenues being explored in the fight against malaria. For her doctoral dissertation this junior scientist was recently presented with the Karl Freudenberg Prize 2006, awarded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Under the heading "News from the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg Foundation" Christina Oesterheld looks back on a conference dealing with the cultural influence of Urdu, the most significant language of Pakistan.

"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 http://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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