Clinical Radiobiology

The research group „Clinical Radiobiology“ investigates the impact of the non-coding transcriptome, notably of microRNAs, on the cellular radiation response. Beside intracellular functions in directly irradiated cells we analyze the role of vesicle-mediated transfer (e.g. by exosomes) of RNAs between cells.

Our topics include the identification of microRNAs affecting cellular response to ionizing radiation, as well as underlying mechanisms and target proteins. It is our goal to identify individual microRNAs or microRNA combinations, which are suitable for increasing the radiosensitivity of tumor cells after manipulating their expression. In addition to their intracellular functions, microRNAs are important components during cell-cell communication. They are released from donor cells as components of extracellular vesicles like exosomes. After uptake, these vesicles can shape the fate of irradiated and non-irradiated cells. In our projects we focus on radiation-induced changes in vesicle cargo (proteins, RNAs) and vesicle function, including radiation-specific alterations in exosome uptake. Additionaly, data obtained in model systems are correlated with findings from radiotherapy patients (for example blood and tumor biopsies).

Our approaches shall enable microRNAs and extracellular vesicles as new diagnostic and therapeutic tools in radiation therapy. Moreover the potential of miRNAs as biomarker for the early detection of radiation side effects is investigated. Overall our data shall contribute to a deeper understanding of radiation sensitivity in normal- and tumor tissue, which may lead to an optimization of radiation therapy.

A. Electron microscopy image of exosomes
B. Uptake of PKH67 labelled exosomes in recipient cells
C. Monitoring of cell migration using GFP-labelled cells
D. Extracellular vesicles and miRNAs as research focus