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Prof. Thomas Jentsch - World-Renowned Neurobiologist Accepts Position at Berlin-Buch

15.03.2006 - (idw) Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC) Berlin-Buch

The neurobiologist Professor Thomas Jentsch (52) from Hamburg has accepted an appointment in Berlin. Beginning this summer, he will head the Department of Physiology and Pathology of Ion Transport at the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin-Buch. The success of the appointment process is the result of a cooperation beyond the scope of the research organizations acting individually. The research group of the world-renowned scientist is being jointly funded: 50 per cent by the FMP (Leibniz Association) and 50 per cent by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Helmholtz Association). Likewise, the appointment to a W3 professorship was made jointly by the FMP and the Charité - University Medical School Berlin. Prof. Jentsch will move into the new laboratory building for medical genome research erected by both the FMP and the MDC on the Campus Berlin-Buch. "We are proud to have such an outstanding scientist join us here," said Prof. Walter Rosenthal, director of the FMP and board spokesman of the Research Association Berlin, to which the FMP belongs. "Thomas Jentsch's seminal work is of impressive scope, covering the whole range from gene to protein and its significance for the cell and the entire organism. His research work has contributed to the understanding of the development of various diseases," Prof. Rosenthal went on to explain. Prof. Walter Birchmeier, scientific director of the MDC, expressed this in a similar way. "With his own research, Thomas Jentsch strengthens all areas of research at the MDC. This top appointment will have an impact on other appointments to Berlin-Buch. Our recent faculty appointments have been made at the highest international level. As another example we have just recently succeeded in recruiting the bioinformatician Nikolaus Rajewsky from New York University to take a position at the MDC and the Charité."

Prof. Jentsch's main research interests are ion transport processes, processes which are of crucial significance for the functioning of the cell and for the whole organism. Disruption of these processes can lead to the development of serious diseases. Among other research activities at the FMP, Prof. Jentsch will study the role of ion transport in neurodegenerative diseases, hearing loss, and bone and kidney diseases. In addition, his research group will investigate the molecular details of the function of the corresponding transport proteins.

About fifteen years ago, Prof. Jentsch and his staff launched a completely new research field in the area of ion transport. From the electric organ of the Torpedo marmorata, they identified and isolated the gene for a voltage-dependent chloride channel. A protein encoded by this gene transports negatively charged chloride ions through the cell membrane, depending on the electric voltage. Since then, nearly a dozen different genes for related chloride channels have also been discovered in mammals and humans with varying functions in the tissues and cells. Thus, working with human geneticists, Prof. Jentsch was able to show that a mutation in such a chloride channel causes several inherited forms of muscle stiffness (myotonia congenita). Furthermore, together with his research group, he succeeded in uncovering the function of two chloride channels in the kidney. When these channels are defective, various renal diseases, such as massive loss of salt, or, with another channel, loss of protein and kidney stones and calcification are the result. His group has further shown that mutations in other chloride transporters lead to thick bones (osteopetrosis) and neurodegeneration in mice and men. In addition, he discovered that mutations in potassium channels are the cause of a certain form of neonatal epilepsy and a dominantly inherited progressive form of deafness.

Thomas Jentsch was born in Berlin on April 24, 1953 and studied physics and medicine there at the Free University (FU). In 1982, he earned his Ph.D. in physics at the FU Berlin and at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, and completed his M.D. degree in 1984. He then served as a staff scientist at the Institute for Clinical Physiology at the FU, and from 1986 - 1988, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the renowned Whitehead Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, USA. Following his postdoctoral work, he became a research group leader at the Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH) where, from 1993 until present, he has served as the director of the Institute for Molecular Neuropathobiology. In 1998, he was offered a professorship at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and in 2000 he was offered a position as director of the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen.

Prof. Jentsch has received numerous awards for his research, both in Germany and abroad, among them the highest German research award, the Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [German Research Foundation] (1995), the Franz Volhard Prize for Nephrology (1998), the Zülch Prize of the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation (1999), the Prix Louis Jeantet (2000), the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine (2001), and the Adolf Fick Prize for Physiology and the Homer W. Smith Award (both 2004). Prof. Jentsch is an elected member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, and the Hamburg Academy of Sciences. He is one of the German scientists whose research is most frequently cited internationally.

Further information:

Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP)
Dr. Björn Maul
Robert Rössle Strasse 10

13125 Berlin
Phone: +49/(0)30/94 79 31 02
Fax: +49/(0)30/94 79 31 09

Press and Public Relations
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular
Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
Barbara Bachtler
Robert Rössle Strasse 10
13125 Berlin
Phone: +49/(0)30/94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49/(0)30/94 06 - 38 33

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