Group Molecular Gastroenterology
Principle Investigator: Dr. rer. nat. Stefanie Derer
The research group “Molecular Gastroenterology” focusses on providing novel insights into how nutrition modulates mucosal energy metabolism in the context of inflammation-driven diseases of the gastrointestinal tract such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer (CRC). The overriding goal of our work is the identification and preclinical development of novel therapeutic strategies in nutritional medicine.
Intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation require tightly controlled activation of distinct metabolic pathways to maintain intestinal barrier integrity. The metabolic switch from mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis enables cell proliferation and is a common motive in inflammation and cancer cells and thus plays a crucial role in inflammation-driven carcinogenesis. Based on the individual predisposition as well as on diet composition, daily and constitutive interaction of the gut with diet-associated nutrients may improve its integrity or may trigger intestinal inflammation, defined by our group as Nutri-Inflammation, that may boost tumorigenesis.
On our way to decipher mitochondria function in inflammation-driven carcinogenesis, we identified a complete new mechanism how activated inflammasome complexes are able to switch cellular metabolism towards aerobic glycolysis. Thereby, we linked for the first time inflammatory processes to imbalanced mitochondria function and tumor cell proliferation.
To understand how the gut responds to individual dietary habits on the molecular level in the context of inflammation-driven carcinogenesis, we connect functional and metabolic data from cell biology with phenotypic and clinical data collected from the institut's own clinical cohorts, from human derived intestinal 3D-organoid cultures or from animal models of acute or chronic intestinal inflammation as well as of inflammation-driven colorectal carcinogenesis.