Investigations into the fundamental processes of life lie at the heart of the life sciences at JMU, with the overarching aim of translating new findings of basic research into cutting-edge medical applications. Within this Research Priority Area, scientists from the Faculty of Medicine oand the University Hospital Würzburg pursue in close cooperation with researchers from the Faculty of Biology various research questions with high relevance to the life sciences at a molecular, cellular and organismal scale. Different members of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, the Faculty of Human Sciences and the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy also contribute significantly to this priority area.
The research focus of the Faculty of Medicine and the University Hospital Würzburg is based on a holistic perspective across all scales, representing the different levels of the analysis of human health, disease and therapy. The focus on the underlying molecular processes as well as their overarching goal, to translate the gained knowledge into clinical applications, is the unifying concept across all the different Focus Areas.
The research within the Focus Area Cellular Heterogeneity addresses the question of how cells sense and process signals from their surroundings/environment as well as the molecular mechanisms and complex processes within the cytoplasm and nucleus. Of special interest within this Focus Area are for example investigations into the importance of RNA molecules for the regulation of cellular functions, performed in collaboration with the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI), and the structural characterization of proteins, which play a crucial role in disease processes. Another example is the analysis of so-called “cellular states”, believed to be crucial for the development of future personalized therapies, using for example high-resolution techniques.
Within the Focus Area Tissue Complexity researchers at the Medical Faculty investigate diseases caused by malfunctioning or disrupted interaction and communication processes within complex tissues and aim to develop new approaches for their therapy. The overarching goal thereby is the regeneration of functional tissue, which had been damaged, for example in the course of a degenerative disease. Hence, research into biofabrication, which lies at the intersection of chemistry, biology and medicine, is a special focus of this research area.
The Focus Area Systems and Network Diseases focuses on communication processes within organ systems as well as between organisms and their environment, intending to identify causal connections of crucial biological processes and to gain a mechanistic understanding of complex pathophysiological mechanisms. Of special importance for this research area are signaling processes of systems diseases, such as those, which are hormonal or take place within blood circulation, the immune system, or the central or peripheral nervous system.
Scientists from the Faculty of Biology contribute to this Research Priority Area through their work on important model organisms to tackle medical questions of high relevance as well as through their investigation into the biology of animals and plants, with a special focus on ecological topics.
At the center of the Focus Area Infection Biology stands the interaction of pathogens with their host as well as the molecular mechanisms of the host defense and the immune response. A significant role in this research area plays the computational analysis of research data.
The Focus Area Insect Research of the Faculty of Biology investigates crucial fundamental mechanisms in the area of physiology and neurobiology using a wide range of model organisms. The molecular mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication, optogentics and the adaptation of plants to different habitats lie at the center of the Focus Area Plant Science.
All these three Focus Areas of the Faculty of Biology are highly connected with the research activities at the Faculty of Medicine. Moreover, the research Focus Areas Insect Research and Plant Science are highly connected with the Research Priority Area Global Challenges.
Excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation exist with the biochemical and pharmaceutical oriented research areas of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, which are embedded into the Focus Areas Molecular Building Blocks, Molecular and Supramolecular Structures and Function and Material. These research areas, often integrated into interdisciplinary collaborative research programs, pursue for example questions into RNA-based infection biology, the fabrication of biomaterials and biomaterial-cell-combinations as well as the development of novel functional materials and substances for biomedical applications.
The Focus Area Imaging Physics of the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy contributes to the life science research at JMU through the further development of magnetic resonance-based imaging techniques. The research spectrum of this focus area ranges from the investigation of basic physical principles to the development of various tomography-based techniques for biomedical and clinical applications.
The German Center of Prevention Research in Mental Health constitutes the framework of the Focus Area Psychological Health in Educational Settings, which combines the research of the human sciences as well as the research of the Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Human Sciences. Work at the center focusses on the development, evaluation and dissemination of innovative (digital) prevention programs. Especially timely primary prevention for children, adolescents and young adults opens the chance to prevent disease development and to reduce anxiety disorders and depression in the overall population.