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The Helmholtz Association and Inserm create 2 joint research laboratories in France

Inserm and the German Helmholtz Association announce the creation of two Franco-German joint research laboratories to promote interaction between their researchers and to foster the establishment of a new form of cooperation in life sciences and health between the two countries.

The two research laboratories will be set up for an initial period of five years, with an annual funding of 250,000 Euros. The groups, cofinanced by the two institutions, will be located in France, working in close relationship with the two Inserm research centres which offer the most compatible environment and will closely interact with an associated Research Center of the Helmholtz Association. The first will be headed by Julien Marie (Centre de Recherche en Cancrologie, Mixed Research Unit Inserm, Universit Lyon 1-Claude Bernard, CNRS, Centre Lon Brard in Lyons, in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center, DKFZ, in Heidelberg), and the second by Michael Sieweke (Centre d'immunologie Marseille-Luminy /Mixed Research Unit Inserm, Universit Aix-Marseille 2, CNRS, together with the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin).

At Lyons, one scientific project will investigate how cancer cells escape control by the immune system.

Our bodies are confronted by a dilemma when controlling the immune system. To avoid development of autoimmune diseases, certain cells, which would be harmful to the body if they were too active, need to be "concealed". On the other hand, the system must be sufficiently effective to avoid the growth and harmful actions of dangerous cells such as tumour cells. It is probable that these control mechanisms obey common rules and that tumour cells take advantage of faults in the autoimmune system mechanisms to proliferate within an organism. Understanding the mechanisms by which tumours escape control by the immune system is a genuine public health challenge. The research will be based on the preliminary work carried out by the team of Julien Marie, which demonstrated that growth factor TGF β could be a key molecule. The researchers from Inserm together with research groups of the DKFZ want to study the mechanisms of the TGF β activity involved in controlling the immune system. Employing some unique and powerful tools, they will use animal models and human samples obtained by biopsy to examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which TGF β makes it possible for tumour cells to escape control of the autoimmune system and recommend targets for therapeutic potential.

Julien Marie is a junior group leader at Inserm. Since 2010, he is the head of the ATIP-Avenir team "TGF-beta and immune evasion" at Lyons. After a three-year postdoctoral position at Seattle, he returned in 2006 to France under a young investigator grant by ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche).In 2010, he was awarded by the Bettencourt-Schuller Foundation a Coup d'lan prize for medical research.

At Marseilles, a second scientific project aims to endlessly renew specialized cells without the use of stem cells.

In most cases, once cells have acquired a specialized function (for example: neurons in the brain, muscle cells, macrophages in the immune system, etc.), they cease to divide and normally remain "locked" in this state until death. A team of scientists directed by Michael Sieweke has, however, achieved multiplication of murine macrophages, in vitro, by genetic modification. Moreover, once these modified cells are injected back into the animal, they behave normally; they do not form tumours and are entirely capable to carrying out the tasks expected of adult macrophages, such as ingestion of bacteria and secretion of chemical products to kill them. The collaboration with scientists of the MDC in Berlin will allow new experiments in order to better understand these phenomena which support specialist cell renewal without the involvement of stem cells.

Michael Sieweke is a director of research at CNRS (equivalent to full professor). He is the head of a research team at the CIML (Centre d'immunologie de la mditerrane Marseille Luminy), investigating transcriptional control of the differentiation of macrophages and their function. After studying at Berkeley in the USA and then at Heidelberg in Germany, he returned to France in 1999 under an ATIP program aimed at young researchers. In 2010, he received the AXA prize from the French Academy of Sciences.


Contact: Priscille Riviere
INSERM (Institut national de la sant et de la recherche mdicale)

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