Ruperto Carola 1/98
Research Magazine of Heidelberg University

Excavations in el Anderin
Why were the inhabitants of the steppes of Central Syria so prosperous?

Since the beginning of the century, Roman and early Byzantine ruins in Syria have been the object of international research. The buildings are frequently outstandingly well preserved and hence of special interest for what they have to tell us about the history of human settlement in the periods in question. In comparison to the sites in Northern and Southern Syria, the sites located in the central regions of the country have been given relatively little attention. Yet these settlements are of immense significance for investigating the living conditions prevailing at the time and the reasons for the conspicuous prosperity of the inhabitants. 1997 saw the commencement of archaeological research at el Anderin, one of the major sites in the region. Director of the project is Christine Strube of Heidelberg University's Institute of Archaeology. The work being done there is described in the title story of the 1/98 issue of „Ruperto Carola“, Heidelberg University's research magazine. Also featured prominently is an account of the newly-discovered effect of a hormone pointing the way to hitherto unexplored avenues in hypertension research. Other articles in the latest issue look into the „rush-hour“ in the cell nucleus, 30 years of outstanding achievement at the Central Institute of Mental Health and new prospects for the treatment of diabetes.

„Funding for the Goethe Institutes should be increased, not cut back.“ This is the gist of vice-Rector Professor Heinz-Dietrich Löwe's remarks in his Editorial about the attractiveness (or otherwise) of German universities for foreign students. Löwe calls for greater latitude in the admission of young people from abroad, quoting the example of Medicine at Heidelberg University which can only cater for one in ten of the qualified students applying for a place. A further requirement he insists on: „Tax laws should be altered to make donations and foundations a more attractive proposition!“

What do steroid hormones and dinosaurs have in common?

This is not a riddle, it's a serious question the latest issue of „Ruperto Carola“ does its level best to answer. The notions we entertain about what goes on in our bodies need to be revised from time to time in the light of new scientific discoveries or more information on highly specialized areas. Steroid hormones (also called stress hormones) are a case in point. For example, aldosteron can influence the regulation of blood circulation in a matter of seconds/minutes in a way that we previously knew nothing about. The diameter of the blood vessels changes and this has an effect on blood flow. The first stages of this quick-action mechanism entail long-term changes in the way cells function. The identification of aldosteron as an acutely effective circulation hormone may pave the way for innovative therapy approaches to high blood pressure and cardiac insufficiency. Martin Wehling and Michael Christ are looking into these quick-impact steroids at the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology.

How does the cell regulate transport between the inside and the outside of the cell nucleus?

Traffic is heavy within cells. The libraries containing the blueprints for protein production (cell nucleus) and the production sites functioning on the basis of those blueprints (cytoplasm) are spatially separated by the nuclear envelope. This is where the pores of the nucleus come in. They direct the entire flow of traffic passing through the envelope. For years scientists have been trying to figure out exactly how the pores are structured and what functions their individual building-blocks perform, e.g. in regulating permeability. By means of a trick, scientists in Heidelberg have made significant progress towards finding an answer. At the Heidelberg Center of Biochemistry, Ed Hurt is investigating traffic conditions on the highways into and out of the cell nucleus at „rush-hour“. In the new issue of „Ruperto Carola“ he reports on his findings.

30 years of achievement

Some 30 years ago, the German Science Council took the decision to set up a national institute for psychiatric research. 1975 then saw the foundations laid for the Central Institute of Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim. After the horrors associated with institutionalized psychiatry during the Third Reich, the aim was to establish psychiatric research in Germany on a new footing and to create a basis for the reform and improvement of psychiatric care, ensuring that the latest research findings be incorporated into a modern regional care system designed to be a model of its kind. The structure, organization and staffing of the Institute were developed along the lines of successful predecessors in other countries. Professor Heinz Häfner masterminded the development of the ZI and acted as its director until his retirement in 1994. Together with Heinz Schepank and Martin Schmidt, he is interviewed here by Claudia Wassmann.

This sweet sickness

Diabetes mellitus is an illness of major and growing significance. It is one of the most frequent disorders diagnosed in inpatient and outpatient care. Epidemiological studies reveal that in Germany today it has a frequency count of 5 percent, corresponding to a head count of 4 million individuals. On this basis there should be 15,000 diabetes patients in urban Mannheim. The number of victims has been steadily increasing since the War, doubling every 15 years. If this trend continues, every 10th inhabitant of the Federal Republic will be a diabetes sufferer by the year 2010. Fokko van der Woude of the Medical Hospital of Heidelberg University at Mannheim provides an outline of the nature of the illness and reports on new approaches to dealing with it.

Since 1980, Professor Horst Seller of the I. Institute of Physiology has been acting in a consulting and liaison capacity for the German Research Council (DFG) at the University of Heidelberg. An interview with Professor Seller, an overview of the latest developments in external funding and the permanent column „News from the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg Foundation“ round out the present issue.

„Ruperto Carola“ is printed by Universitätsverlag C. Winter – Heidelberger Verlagsanstalt. Single copies cost DM 10,- (DM 5,- for students). Like the special support subscription (4 issues for DM 60,–), they can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 105760, D-69047 Heidelberg.

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Updated: 09.07.98 at 14:24:26 (Thewalt)