We are studying the protein damage in cells and tissues. Protein damage of that kind is caused by free radicals and oxidants, by-products of cellular metabolism and is increasingly formed during pathological changes leading to oxidative stress. High levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia), elevated blood pressure (hypertonia) and inflammation are such pathological conditions. Under normal conditions in a functioning cell or in a tissue such modified proteins will be degraded and, therefore, detoxified, while in changing metabolic or pathological conditions or in advanced age the degradation of modified proteins might be insufficient. In order to study the degradation of oxidized proteins the department is investigating the intracellular proteolytic systems. It is well established that aged cells are less able to react to stress. Inadequate degradation of oxidized proteins occurs and cells are accumulating damaged proteins such as lipofuscin, an aging pigment. This in turn can affect the function of cells.
How nutrition might influence the formation or degradation of damaged proteins is a central research topic of the department. The effects of macronutrients, especially proteins, as well as of micronutrients, especially vitamins, on the protein homeostasis of aging cells are also investigated. In translational approaches, the department tries to identify reliable biomarkers enabling the assessment of biological age, redox status and protein homeostasis.
The research was and is supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK), the German Center for Diabetes research (DZD), the European Union (EU), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) und State Ministry for Science, research and Culture (MWFK).