Dr. Dörte Schulte will be awarded the MTZ®-MPI-Award 2011

Once a year the MTZ®foundation presents the MTZ®-MPI-Award. The foundation honors a particularly talented young scientist, who is working in human medicine or biomedicine and has completed an outstanding doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine. Award winner of 2011 is Dr. Dörte Schulte. In her thesis, she has investigated which molecular mechanisms are involved when white blood cells, the leukocytes, move from the blood vessels into the tissue for example to antagonize inflammation.

Blood and tissue are separated by cell layers that are called endothelium. At this barrier, our body controls which compounds or blood cells may pass from the blood into the tissue. To regulate this process, contact point between the endothelial cells may be tightened or loosened. Dörte Schulte has investigated how this regulatory process takes place. The adhesion molecule VE-cadherin plays a central role: normally, the endothelial cells are tightly connected to each other. VE-cadherin works as a screw that keeps the cell walls together. "In case of inflammation of the surrounding tissue, this screw is turned open", says Dörte Schulte in her explanation of the mechanism she investigated. "The cell contacts are loosened up", continues Dörte Schulte: "In this way, the immune cells can squeeze in between the endothelial cells, enter the tissue and clear up the inflammation."

For these investigations, the team in which Dörte Schulte has completed her doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute has modified the genome of mice such that VE-cadherin cannot work as a reversible screw between the cell walls anymore. The cell contacts stay closed, also when inflammatory agents give signals to the endothelium that leukocytes are needed in the tissue. Various disorders, such as edema, stroke, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, allergies and inflammatory diseases, are caused by a malfunction in the regulation of endothelium. "Research with our mice can give us a clue of how the endothelial barrier is regulated - and maybe also of how the barrier can be closed." Tumor metastases also use the endothelial barrier, says Dörte Schulte: "It will be interesting to investigate in these mice how tumor cells enter the blood circulation."

Dörte Schulte has accomplished her doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine with Prof. Dr. Dietmar Vestweber in the Department Vascular Cell Biology in the year 2010 with the distinction "summa cum laude". Before, she has studied Biotechnology at the Technische Universtität Braunschweig. After her time as a doctoral student, Dörte Schulte had the opportunity to prolong her investigations on this topic for another year. Since the summer of this year, she is working as a postdoc at the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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