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From urban climate research to the treatment of incontinence

This press release is available in German.

The establishment of six new Research Units and one Clinical Research Unit has been decided by the Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). These networks will offer researchers the opportunity to address current and pressing issues in their fields and to pioneer innovative approaches. As all DFG Research Units, the new groups will work across locations and disciplines. Clinical Research Units combine clinical, applied and basic research.

The thematic range of these institutions is quite diverse. One of the new Research Units, for example, will examine the future impact of climate change in cities, while others are set to explore the role of ribosomes within a cell, or human decision processes and their consequences on economic and social policy. Therapeutic approaches to urinary incontinence will be the focus of the Clinical Research Unit.

Over the next three years, the six new Research Units will receive approximately 12.8 million euros and bring the total number of DFG-funded Research Units to 191. Funding for the new Clinical Research Unit will amount to about 3.4 million euros in the first funding period. The DFG currently supports a total of 33 Clinical Research Units.

The new Research Units in detail (alphabetically by host university):

In Research Unit 1736 "Urban Climate and Heat Stress in Mid-Latitude Cities in View of Climate Change", climatologists, urban geographers, hydrologists, physicians, architects, urban planners and social scientists will study the impact of future climate change using the example of Berlin. At the centre of their investigations are the risks of increasing heat stress to humans, as well as various mitigation and adaptation options. These include especially measures to improve the climate of the interior spaces occupied by high-stress populations as well as strategies in building-technology and urban planning, such as increased integration of green spaces. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dieter Scherer, Berlin Institute of Technology)

The transfer of electronic excitation energy at the molecular level is an essential step in many chemical and biochemical processes. The goal of Research Unit 1789 "Intermolecular and Interatomic Coulombic Decay" is to understand a novel mechanism for electronic energy transfer between atoms or molecules in a weakly bound aggregate, for example a liquid. This so-called interatomic or intermolecular Coulombic decay (ICD) is an autoionisation process involving two different sites: one at which occurs a relaxation, causing a release of electronic energy, and a second to which the excess energy is transferred, causing a weakly bound shell electron to be released there. In addition to understanding ICD as such, other focus areas of the Research Unit are to develop potential applications of this effect and to illuminate its relevance for not yet fully understood processes in nature. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Reinhard Drner, University of Frankfurt)

Research Unit 1522 "Multi-Physical Synthesis and Integration of Complex High-Frequency Circuits - MUSIK" intends to use the amplifying, controlling, oscillating and switching properties of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for multiphysical synthesis and the integration of complex radio frequency (RF) circuits. Through this approach, a novel switching technology (RF micromechatronics) will be developed that goes far beyond existing RF MEMS research, which has been focused on technology and individual elements, and takes it to an application-oriented system level. Crucial to this endeavour is the combination of silicon and ceramic technologies, which is a necessary prerequisite for the development of an integrated microelectromechanical switching technology. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Hein, Technical University of Ilmenau)

The two "decision sciences" of economics and psychology are combined in Research Unit 1882 "Psychoeconomics: Interacting Decision Processes and their Consequences for Economic Performance", for understanding human decision-making is essential for both disciplines. Decision models are important in order to comprehend the consequences of economic and social policy, the effect of incentives and education, market mechanisms and the impact areas of economic institutions. From a collaboration between the behavioural schools of economics and psychology, the Research Unit expects tremendous benefits and intends to develop on this basis an integrative, data-based understanding of the motivations and strategies that influence human conduct, such as conflict resolution and learning behaviour. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Carlos Als-Ferrer, University of Constance)

How does the molecular choreography of processes and functions in and at the ribosome work? This is the question asked by Research Unit 1805 "Ribosome Dynamics in Regulation of Speed and Accuracy of Translation". The translation of the genetic information of a nucleotide chain into a functional protein is a key biological process. The scientists' goal is therefore to map the dynamic aspects of ribosomal function at different levels, with methods ranging from atomic analysis to cell-wide stochastic examination. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems serve as objects of research, allowing insight into the principles, differing functions and regulation of ribosomes. This will be done using interdisciplinary methods from high-resolution structural science, biochemistry and biophysics. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Zoya Ignatova, University of Potsdam)

Unwanted leakage of urine, even in minor amounts, causes social problems; in larger quantities it also leads to health issues. Costs in Germany for incontinence-aids alone exceed half a billion euros per year. There is currently no lasting treatment for the most common cause of urinary incontinence, stress incontinence, which is usually due to a weakness or malfunction of the urethral sphincter. Clinical Research Unit 273 "Treatment of Urinary Incontinence through Cell-Based Regeneration of the Urethral Sphincter" will therefore investigate different aspects of a possible curative, cell-based therapy to strengthen the weakened urethral sphincter. Its main focus is on the question of how specially grown tissue implants or applied cells can be used to achieve functional regeneration of the urethral sphincter. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Arnulf Stenzl, University of Tbingen)

Molecular aggregates provide the basis for a number of scientific and technological developments that are increasingly gaining in economic importance. Especially in the field of optical applications, such systems are used for their widely adjustable properties. Research Unit 1809 "Light-Induced Dynamics in Molecular Aggregates" is set to examine how the specially arranged molecular building blocks in aggregates lead to a desired light-induced dynamic and thus function of the overall system. Using an interdisciplinary approach with methods from chemistry, physics and quantum dynamics, the group strives for a better understanding of these processes, thus enabling the production of new materials and material systems with tailored properties. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tobias Brixner, University of Wrzburg)

Contact: Marco Finetti
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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