The research focus areas at the School of Medicine are closely linked to the four major core clinical areas: cancer research, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, and infection, immunity & environment, which are briefly described below.
Traditionally, cancer research has been one of the central focus areas of the School of Medicine. Today, basic and clinical cancer researchers at the school are dedicated to all major aspects in this field with great success, from research programs to improve the biological understanding of individual cancers, to the development of technologies for improved diagnostics and therapy, to the translation of identified biological and technical principles into new diagnostic and treatment options for our patients at the University Hospital rechts der Isar and beyond.
The efforts of our cancer researchers are supported by numerous large-scale collaborative projects funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Innovation Fund of the GBA and the European Union on cross-cutting topics such as the interaction of the immune system and cancer, the testing of new imaging technologies, innovative tumor tissue analysis methods and new digital forms of care, focusing on particularly frequent and aggressive cancer types, such as pancreatic cancer, brain tumors, prostate cancer and leukemia. Our cancer research projects are conducted in close collaboration with other researchers at the Technical University of Munich beyond the field of medicine, in particular from the fields of life sciences, health sciences, biotechnologies and computer sciences. This interdisciplinary collaboration is promoted by the TU Institute for Translational Cancer Research TranslaTUM.
Today, cancer researchers at the school play a central formative role in regional and national cancer research networks, such as the Bavarian Cancer Research Center (BZKF), the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), and as part of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Munich (CCCM) in the network of Oncological Centers of Excellence of the German Cancer Aid. All our efforts in this research field are ultimately aimed at sustainably improving the survival and healing chances of our patients with cancer.
Heart disease in the clinical field and in research: We care for our patients and are researching how heart patients can be treated even better in the future
Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death in Germany! Therefore, it is a central concern for us scientists and physicians of the University Hospital rechts der Isar, the German Heart Center of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Center Munich to use our research to discover new fundamental mechanisms for the development and treatment of diabetes and heart disease. We research how people can protect themselves from diabetes and cardiovascular disease and how a worsening of the disease can be prevented.
Our “TUM Cardiovascular Department” includes the Helmholtz Center Munihc, the German Heart Center, the University Hospital rechts der Isar, the School of Sports and Health Sciences and other institutions at the Technical University of Munich. Thus, Munich ranks among the top research institutions in Germany.
The main areas of research are:
- at Helmholtz Center Munich the molecular basis! Here, the basic building blocks of the development of diabetes as well as its secondary diseases, such as cancer and arteriosclerosis, vasoconstriction and cardiac insufficiency, are researched. This is where the world's largest population studies have been conducted for years.
- at the German Heart Center Munich, minimally invasive therapy! In more than 500 studies, new therapy standards for circulatory disorders and heart valve diseases have been developed. In addition, the treatment of congenital heart defects into adulthood is being researched. The most important hereditary causes of heart attack were discovered here.
- at the University Hospital rechts der Isar (MRI) the tanslational research! Here, preclinical results from the laboratory are transferred to clinical application in patient settings. In close cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, new methods such as cell and gene therapy and modified RNA therapies for the heart are tested for their clinical benefit in animal models and finally with patients. In addition, new imaging technologies are being developed in order to be able to diagnose cardiovascular diseases even earlier and more accurately with the help of MRIs and CTs. In addition to cardiac patients, the focus is also on diseases of the aorta and patients with chronic kidney disease.
- At the TUM Campus in the Olympic Park, the prevention of cardiovascular diseases! Here, the focus is on research of lifestyle and its effect on the development of arteriosclerosis and cardiac insufficiency from pregnancy through childhood and adolescence to adulthood. With this nationally and internationally unique focus, this research leads to lifestyle recommendations and programs for people with cardiac insufficiency and congenital heart defects.The complete spectrum is supplemented by alliances of national research centers that study the messenger substances between the heart muscle, vessels and other organs. The School of Nutritional Sciences at the TUM Weihenstephan site and the School of Engineering Sciences at the Garching site also engage in cardiovascular research topics.
The TU Munich is a repository of innovation and a promoter of enthusiastic young scientists precisely because of its various locations with different focus areas.
The research focus “Neurosciences” covers the entire spectrum from basic neurobiological research to the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in neurology and psychiatry. A particular focus is on the interaction of nerve and supporting cells, the metabolic processes in the nervous system, and the disease mechanisms of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.
Neuroscientific research benefits in particular from the neurotechnological expertise of the Technical University, through the development and application of state-of-the-art analytical and diagnostic methods from the fields of imaging, electrophysiology and neuroengineering. Collaboration with numerous other research institutions, e.g. the Helmholtz Center Munich, the Max Planck Society and the Cluster of Excellence “SyNergy”, allows new technologies to be developed and refined from preclinical prototypes to clinical applications. Special emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary collaboration between the classical research areas of neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and neurovascular and neurometabolic disease research, such as stroke and diabetes - in the hope of identifying “cross-disease” mechanisms that can serve as targets for future diagnostic and therapeutic methods.
This interdisciplinary collaboration between research areas along the translational axis from the laboratory to the bedside is also the guiding principle of the new “Center for Neuroscience and Multiple Sclerosis Research” currently being established at the University Hospital rechts der Isar with the support of a private foundation and the state of Bavaria.
Infection, Immunity und Environment
Our immune system deals with infectious agents and environmental influences every day. As a result, it plays a central role in preventing infectious diseases and tumors. We are increasingly taking advantage of this to prevent diseases and to treat them in a targeted manner. Immunotherapy has already gained widespread acceptance in the treatment of cancer patients and is currently emerging in other disease areas as well.
However, a misdirected immune response can also lead to severe diseases. Autoimmune diseases or allergies require a more targeted attenuation of the immune response. The fundamental understanding of immunity and its control in the periphery, but also in tissues, are essential to be able to use the immune system therapeutically. This is the focus of activities at our school. In this regard, our researchers have an internationally prominent position in the field of pathogen-host interaction, engineering of immune and tissue cells, and detailed analysis of immune responses in humans.
In order to understand the immune system and to use it therapeutically, scientists collaborate with translational researchers and physicians at University Hospital rechts der Isar in numerous national and international research alliances funded by the State of Bavaria, the German Research Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the European Union and the U.S. NIH, as well as various foundations. We are also involved in the German Center for Infection Research and the German Center for Lung Research.
The molecular understanding of viruses that have pandemic potential or pathogens that trigger chronic infections is just as central for us as that of antibiotic-resistant germs. Insights into triggers and risk factors for immune-mediated diseases such as allergies or for example multiple sclerosis are the foundation of new concepts for the targeted prevention of these diseases. In addition, misdirected signaling pathways, the metabolic control of immune responses, and analyses at the single-cell level are coming into focus with the help of new methods for analyzing large amounts of data. This provides new entry points for interventions that can control and ideally completely prevent immune-mediated diseases.
A central concern of this research focus area is to transfer findings from research into clinical application. In recent years, the first T-cell therapies as well as prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines from our own research have been successfully tested in clinical trials and new diagnostic possibilities have opened up. These activities will be further advanced and intensified in the coming years in cooperation with the other TUM Centers and Schools and our partners in the Munich area, such as the Helmholtz Center Munich.