Young researchers realizing innovative ideas

We congratulate Dr. Konstantin Sparrer (Institute of Molecular Virology) and Dr. Stephanie Wehrstedt (Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene) on the approval of 10,000€ (each) for their proposals! The state Baden-Württemberg provides flexible funding for CRCs. This enables the executive board of CRC 1279 to support early-stage researchers with start-up funding, so-called “Anschubfinanzierung” to realize their own projects. By screening peptide libraries supplied by the Core Facility Functional Peptidomics, Konstantin Sparrer aims to identify human peptides that modulate cellular autophagy. Autophagy is an important host defense pathway: it helps the cell to combat viral pathogens. However, in terms of co-evolution, some viruses evolved strategies to exploit this mechanism for their own replication. Thus, manipulating autophagy could represent a novel strategy to fight viral pathogens. Stephanie Wehrstedt’s project also employs human peptide libraries generated by our Core Facility. Her aim is to discover peptides that induce lysosomal acidification in human macrophages. “Getting sour” is a major host defense mechanism of macrophages by which they can kill pathogens, e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Since multidrug resistant strains of this life-threatening pathogen increasingly emerge, new treatment options are needed. These two new projects open up new perspectives to jointly combat human pathogens (both viruses and bacteria) by exploiting the human peptidome.

Figure 1: Left: Konstantin Sparrer, postdoc at the Institute of Molecular Virology. Right: Stephanie Wehrstedt, postdoc at the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene.