Extension of the Collaborative Research Center SFB 1340 "Matrix in Vision
The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved the continuation of the Collaborative Research Center 1340 (SFB 1340) "Matrix in Vision" for another four years. Here, scientists are investigating how pathological changes in the extracellular matrix can be visualized in diagnostic imaging. This knowledge can help to detect diseases earlier and to support therapies in a targeted manner. The spokesperson is Prof. Dr. med. Bernd Hamm, Director of the Department of Radiology at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Other members of the SFB 1340 board are PD Dr. rer. nat. Antje Ludwig, Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Ingolf Sack and Prof. Dr. med. Dipl. Phys. Matthias Taupitz.
The importance of the extracellular matrix in disease initiation and development
Almost all inflammatory and oncological diseases are associated with specific cellular changes. Current research results show that the extracellular matrix also changes in a characteristic way. This already occurs at very early points in the course of the disease. The extracellular matrix is composed of different components in a complex way and on the one hand gives the tissue its mechanical properties and on the other hand takes over important functions in the control of cellular processes.
The SFB 1340
The SFB 1340 "Matrix in Vision had been established at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin on July 1, 2018. This was the first time the DFG approved such ambitious funding in the field of diagnostic radiology in its 50th anniversary year of the SFB program. In the SFB 1340, scientists are conducting research on the topic of "In vivo imaging of pathological changes in the extracellular matrix." "We use two approaches for this: With so-called mechanical imaging - elastography - the altered mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix are to be made visible and measurable. Molecular imaging is intended to visualize specific biochemical signatures of the altered extracellular matrix," explains Prof. Hamm. In addition to the Charité, the Free University of Berlin, the Technical University of Berlin, the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Berlin, and the Technical University of Munich with the Klinikum rechts der Isar are involved in the interdisciplinary and multi-institutional joint project.
According to the reviewers, the in vivo imaging of the extracellular matrix is highly ambitious and a unique selling point of the consortium worldwide, and the methodology used comprises an impressive range of numerous sophisticated methods. This diversity of methods is seen as one of the strong pillars on which the research project can rely. In addition, the network is organized in an exemplary manner. All subprojects are closely interlinked and show a high affinity to the overall research topic.
Results to date and outlook
In the first funding phase of SFB 1340 from mid-2018 to mid-2022, methods and disease models were developed to be able to assign changes in the extracellular matrix to the representation in the various imaging methods. These include both microscopic methods and experimental in vivo imaging methods. Initial results confirm that the extracellular matrix changes both biochemically and in terms of its mechanical properties in various inflammatory diseases and that this can be visualized in in vivo imaging. In the second phase of SFB 1340, which will be funded until mid-2026, experimental investigations will include whether the methods developed can be used to visualize the effect of therapeutic approaches and how this correlates with the biochemical and mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix. In the further course, the elaborated methods and gained knowledge are to be transferred in the sense of translation, as far as possible, into clinical research and, if necessary, into clinical application. This is possible in a timely manner for the non-invasive, mechanical imaging methods (elastography) and for imaging using approved imaging probes. For tissue-specific molecular imaging probes, which are currently under development, this is a longer-term project.
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