Yearbook 2005

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The Max-Planck-Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim focusses on research on the processes being responsible for regeneration and repair of organs such as the heart. Previous studies had shown that stem cells might play an important role. In one of their projects scientists therefore investigated the potential of adult and embryonal stem cells to differentiate into completely developed tissue cells such as skeletal muscle or heart muscle cells. Data show that the use of specific differention factors indeed induces cell programmes which lead to the expression of typical muscle-cell specific factors. However, stem cells could not completely be transfered into muscle cells. In contrast, researchers observed in vitro experiments the fusion of stem cells and differentiated muscle cells, which could point towards a potential repair mechanism: Muscle repair may not be mediated by transdifferentiation of stem cells into muscle cells, but rather by fusion of stem and muscle cell. Doing so, vitality of the “sick” cell might be improved. In a second study, Max-Planck researchers investigated whether stem cells might contribute to the repair of heart tissue after myocardial infarction. They showed that after injection of stem cells isolated from skeletal muscles or of heart muscle cells which had be risen from embryonic stem cells, that at least in an animal model heart function can be improved. The positive effect most likely is based on a mechanism, in which growth stimulating substances are released into the damaged heart tissue by the injected cells. more
The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science carries out a long-term project on the cultural history of heredity. The project deals with the different constellations in which the discourse of heredity took shape from the early modern period to the late twentieth century. It looks closely at and correlates the cultural – agricultural, technical, legal, medical and scientific – practices in which the knowledge of inheritance was materially anchored and in which it gradually revealed its effects. more
Does an engaged and active lifestyle in old age alleviate intellectual decline? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development approached this question by applying a structural equation model for testing dynamic hypotheses to eight-year longitudinal data from the Berlin Aging Study (n = 516; age range = 70–100+years). Results reveal that, within a bivariate system of perceptual speed and social participation, prior scores of social participation influence subsequent changes in perceptual speed, while the opposite does not hold. Results support the hypothesis that an engaged and active lifestyle in old and very old age has beneficial effects on intellectual development in old age. more
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