May 2018

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has established a Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) for Diagnostic Radiology at the Charité, Berlin, Germany. Collaborative Research Centres are highly competitive and among the best funded grants available from the German Research Foundation. This CRC represents the first CRC in the field of Diagnostic Radiology in Germany. Collaborative Research Centres are long-term university-based research institutions, established for up to 12 years (renewal process every 4 years), in which researchers work together within a multidisciplinary research programme. They allow researchers to tackle innovative, challenging, complex and long-term research undertakings through the coordination and concentration of individuals and resources. They enable institutional priority area development and structural development.

The Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1340 at the Charité, Berlin, Germany with the title “matrix in vision” focuses on the question, how pathological changes of the extracellular matrix can be visualized by techniques available in Diagnostic Radiology. The gained knowledge could contribute to the early detection of diseases and the guidance of therapies.

Nearly all diseases, including inflammatory processes and malignancies, are associated with specific cellular changes. However, the research community are recognizing increasingly, that the extracellular matrix also plays a pivotal role, especially in the early phases of disease development. The extracellular matrix has different functions and directly interacts with cellular components of the tissues and is important for the mechanical properties of tissues. The researchers in the SFB 1340 (speaker: Prof. Dr. Bernd Hamm, Director of the Department of Radiology, Charité, Berlin, Germany) work on the “In vivo Visualization of Extracellular Matrix Pathology”.

The proposed CRC for the first time combines biological molecular methods in radiology with new biophysical insights into the role of mechanical tissue parameters in the development of disease, thus enabling

1) the investigation of the interaction of molecular imaging probes with the ECM

2) the investigation of new imaging approaches using various types of magnetic nanoparticles and gadolinium-based imaging probes

3) multiscale quantification of mechanical structural elements of the ECM, ranging from microscopic collagen and glycosaminoglycan networks to macroscopic mechanical parameters investigated by clinical diagnostic elastography

Figure 1: Example of multifrequency MR elastography for the evaluation of viscoelastic properties of ECM in liver tissue. This approach has potential for the noninvasive detection and staging of liver fibrosis.

Figure 2: Example of an elastin specific probe for the detection of atherosclerotic plaque in the brachiocephalic artery in a mouse model. The probe visualizes elastin, which is an important structural and signalling component of the extracellular matrix. Using this approach atherosclerotic vessel wall changes can be detected earlier, compared to conventional MR methods.

Cooperation partners in this Collaborative Research Centre are: Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung, Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und prüfung sowie Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt.