Close-Up - Matthias von Herrath
Study of Biomarkers in human type 1 and 2 diabetes
“An intricate interplay of immune and metabolism factors causes type 1 and 2 diabetes - while some of these factors and the genetic basis for them is known, large unknowns concern the contribution of the environment to both forms of diabetes and thus, for example, the unexplained raise of diabetes in the past several decades.
It is therefore, that we have to devote intensive effort to define better biomarkers that can tell us, how fast and why the disease develops, whether the causes and course varies between individuals and whether complications such as cardiovascular diseases can be more precisely predicted.
We hope that such discoveries will be a strong step towards more individualized medicine and better understanding for diabetes - for example, while it has been postulated for decades that only type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, we now see also anti-self (auto-)immune reactions in type 2 diabetes. In addition, polarization of certain cells of the immune system such as macrophages seems to play a role not only in both forms of diabetes, but also in obesity-related inflammations. Ultimately better understanding will also form the basis for new therapeutic approaches. This project will be performed in collaboration with Novo Nordisk.“
Please close your eyes for a moment and think about your research project. What do you see at first?
Music and colors.
Please name three things that you spontaneously connect to Albert Einstein.
Violin. Creativity and out of the box thinking. Doing science for the sake of science and not other reasons.
What do you do first thing in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, and why?
Drink a Café Frappé to wake me up and after a couple of hours of work ride my bike to clear my mind.
What would your research project look like if it was a piece of art?
It would be a piece of music, harmonious, emotional and strong - like a good rock ballad or a special piece of classical music.
What do you think: Is there a true prejudice about researchers?
That basic science is too much about prestige and publications and their impact factor, while it should be about teamwork, freedom and collaborations. Of course, we have to make our work publicly available, but with the Internet and improved online journals, the impact factor of publications should take a lesser role. Rather, the future should be the judge of how good a given research project was and in particular, how it can improve our understanding and translation to human health.
With whom would you like to exchange your workplace for one day, and what would you do then?
Accompany David Garrett or Anne Sophie Mutter during one of their touring days - I love to play violin and music stimulates my brain in ways that take me to my favorite places. I also love rock music (that's why we have a diabetes band in Germany called the 'Sugardaddies') and would like to have the opportunity to play with Tina Turner or Carlos Santana - these are some special musician's dreams and I wish I had more time for music and play better.