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Children and a Career

Three Freiburg female scientists receive funding from Brigitte Schlieben-Lange program

Freiburg, Dec 18, 2019

Children and a Career

Athina Ganner, Shakuntala Savanthrapadian, Danye Qiu (from left). Photos: Jürgen Gocke

Nephrology, physiology and organic chemistry: for their one to two-year scientific projects towards further qualifications after their doctoral theses, three female scientists at the University of Freiburg are receiving funding from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and the University of Freiburg as part of the Brigitte Schlieben-Lange program. In this period, the female researchers hope to meet the requirements to be appointed to a chair and advance their prospects of qualifying for a teaching career in higher education. The unusual aspect of this program is that it offers funding for female scientists who have one or more children. In this way the program deliberately aims to help female researchers to combine an academic career with family life.

Dr. Athina Ganner, Nephrology: Analysis of the influence of VHL on lipid metabolism

The hereditary von Hippel-Lindau disease is based on mutations in the tumor suppressor gene known as the von Hippel-Lindau or VHL gene. These mutations lead to changes in the expression, i.e. the reading and transcription, of genes which, for example, control cell growth and the formation of new vessels. VHL patients develop cysts and tumors in various organs: clear cell renal cell carcinomas, i.e. malignant tumors of the kidneys, often develop. Even sporadically occurring renal cell carcinomas show a 90% probability of mutations in the VHL gene. This circumstance underlines the central importance of the VHL gene for the development of such carcinomas. Dr. Athina Ganner hopes to uncover new VHL-regulated mechanisms that play a role in the development of clear cell renal cell carcinoma. In her previous work, she was able to identify further genes whose expression is altered when the VHL gene is missing. These include genes that play a role in lipid metabolism. The relationship between VHL and lipid metabolism will now be investigated in more detail.

Dr. Shakuntala Savanthrapadian, Physiology: The functional significance of dopaminergic inputs to the hippocampus and their impact on behavior

Dopamine is a neuromodulator, a chemical substance produced by the body. It influences the functioning of the nervous system and is central to the development of diseases such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s. Dr. Shakuntala Savanthrapadian is investigating the functional role of dopaminergic signal transduction in the dentate gyrus. This brain region in the hippocampus is crucial for learning and the formation of new memories. It consists of principal neurons that stimulate other neurons within and beyond the dentate gyrus as well as interneurons that inhibit neurons in their immediate environment. Savanthrapadian seeks to selectively activate dopaminergic cells by emitting light of a certain wavelength onto these cells. In order to assess the effect of this manipulation, she will simultaneously record the neuronal firing activity of principal and inhibitory neurons in the dentate gyrus during a learning task. Savanthrapadian hopes to shed new light on how dopamine influences excitation and inhibition in the dentate gyrus during memory formation.

Dr. Danye Qiu, Organic Chemistry: CE-based Analysis of Magic Spot Nucleotides, Inositol Phosphates and Inorganic Polyphosphates

Bacteria rearrange their cellular resources to adapt to restricted diet, stress or treatment with antibiotics. They do this with the help of magic spot nucleotides. One of these nucleotides is guanosine tetraphosphate, ppGpp for short, which was discovered half a century ago using an analytical method involving radioactively labelled bacterial material. Modern instrumental methods that respond to non-radioactively labelled materials could facilitate research in this area. For the analysis of bacterial magic spot nucleotides, Dr. Danye Qiu wants to use capillary electrophoresis, the separation in a thin capillary tube in an electrolyte solution, in combination with mass spectrometry for the first time. In this process, ions are accelerated by an electric field and sorted according to their mass-to-charge ratio. The data will show how bacteria adapt fundamentally to stress and can therefore bypass antibiotics. In the long term, this may contribute to the development of antibiotics with improved activity


Dr. Athina Ganner
Department of Medicine IV, Nephrology and Primary Care
Tel.: +49 761 270-63220

Dr. Sha Savanthrapadian
Institute of Physiology I
Tel.: +49 761 203-5160

Dr. Danye Qiu
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
Tel.: +49 761 203-6075