Ulm University is creating a unique research building for 'Multidimensional Trauma Sciences' (Multidimensionale Trauma-Wissenschaften; MTW). The building measures almost 5,000 square metres and is designed specifically to cater to the medical and natural scientists' needs. It will house highly specialised biomedical laboratories, a biobank for blood and tissue samples from all over the world and a centre for clinical studies, among other things. The construction is scheduled to be completed in 2024 and costs more than 73 million euros. The costs will be shared by the German federal government, the state government of Baden-Württemberg and the Medical Faculty of Ulm University. The Science Council's Research Construction Committee described the project proposal as 'outstanding': Never before in this funding procedure has a higher amount of federal funds gone to Baden-Württemberg.
'Physical and psychological traumas have been researched and treated in Ulm at the highest level for many years. The great dedication of the involved scientists from Ulm is now receiving lasting recognition with the approval of the new research building. The Science Council's decision is a distinguished accolade for the University and its Medical Centre. This will gain Ulm even stronger prominence in the world of trauma research,' says Theresia Bauer, science minister of Baden-Württemberg.
An accident can tear people out of life at any age. Such severe injuries trigger a complex cascade of reactions in the body that affects all organ systems. The purpose of the body's innate 'danger response' is healing and regeneration. Disturbances in the process, however, can have fatal consequences ranging from mental illness to organ failure. The current understanding of this multifaceted danger response and regeneration after trauma is limited, which means that important fundamentals are still missing in order to provide individual therapies that are tailored to specific injury patterns. The new MTW building will make a major contribution to closing these research gaps. 'Hitherto, serious injuries such as those caused by accidents or terrorist attacks have mostly been studied in a monodisciplinary fashion. Ulm's unique selling point and recipe for success is the collaboration across various disciplines in trauma research and its close cooperation with the military hospital (Bundeswehrkrankenhaus; BWK). The purpose of the MTW building is to pool interdisciplinary research projects and facilitate an even greater exchange – also thanks to the integrated communication spaces,' explains Professor Thomas Wirth, Dean of the Medical Faculty and President of the German Trauma Foundation.
Ulm's trauma research is visible on an international level and it is one of the University's strategic development areas. Important groundwork has been done by clinical research groups and the Trauma Collaborative Research Centre 1149, which form part of the collaboration platform 'Center for Trauma Research' (Zentrum für Traumaforschung; ZTF). The Medical Faculty also runs joint projects with Ulm's military hospital. The trauma researchers benefit greatly from the outstanding local psychiatric and psychological competences. Further overlaps exist with collaborative projects in the fields of peptide and tumour research as well as with research on ageing. 'The research conducted in the new MTW building will build on this preliminary work but also incorporate important extensions both in terms of content and methodology. The joint research efforts in the MTW building endeavour to map the highly complex response to trauma in terms of chronology and location across the entire organism and thus uncover new mechanisms,' says Professor Markus Huber-Lang, one of the lead applicants and founding director of the MTW building.
More than 200 scientists will come together in 19 working groups and delve into a wide range of aspects of trauma research. One such aspect is tissue regeneration after severe injuries: Trauma patients often show impaired bone and wound healing for which initial treatment successes have been achieved with the help of stem cells. Other areas of research target organ-specific disorders as a result of injuries. Scientists are looking for biomarkers that indicate disturbances in cell and organ function early on and are suitable to monitor trauma patients in real time. Accident victims with brain injuries are particularly at risk: Traumatic brain injury is in fact one of the most frequent causes of death in Germany. Utilising a variety of methods – including 'minibrains' from pluripotent stem cells – the researchers want to investigate post-traumatic changes in the wiring and regeneration of the brain.
One of Ulm's specialties is the research on the interplay of psychological and physical trauma and how that influences the healing process. Inflammatory reactions and changes in the microbiome of trauma patients will also be investigated in the MTW building. To that end, a new research field is being established that deals with the production of toxins by bacteria in the wake of severe injuries (traumatoxicology). 'We pay attention to "disruptive factors" such as pre-existing conditions and the age of the patients in all our research projects, as these factors can significantly influence the body's reaction to trauma. The research groups' overarching goal, of course, is the transfer of research results into clinical concepts of diagnosis, therapy and prevention,' says Professor Anita Ignatius, deputy founding director of the MTW building. Ignatius played a substantial role in the application process for the research building.
This ambitious scientific agenda requires a highly specialised infrastructure. 'The MTW building is being built on campus in the immediate vicinity of trauma-related medical and research institutes and the University Medical Centre. Project management and construction are carried out by the state agency Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg in Ulm', explains Wilmuth Lindenthal, office director and architect. In addition to biomedical and infectiological laboratories of security level 2, the MTW building will provide rooms for modern imaging procedures such as CT or MRI as well and virtual trauma laboratories for computer simulations. A centre for clinical studies where samples can be collected and trauma patients examined as well as a biobank with tissue samples complete the infrastructure. Construction is scheduled to commence in February 2021.
'The MTW building is an important extension of the research infrastructure at Ulm University: In keeping with its founding idea it builds a bridge from medicine to the natural sciences and ultimately to the University Medical Centre where patients receive the highest level of treatment following physical and psychological trauma," emphasises Professor Michael Weber, President of Ulm University.