Mission and Projects

Trace Element Analysis and Element Speciation

The important role of trace elements in biology and medicine is well accepted. The metabolism of organisms rely on appropriate bioavailability of elements and is influenced widely from speciation of elements in body fluids and tissue.

Our research focuses on the analysis of element species to examine important conjunctions between trace element species and the health state, and particularly on the metabolism of element species with diseases

Health problems and diseases related to trace element species are discussed with research partners from interdisciplinary cooperations and innovative research concepts are sketched.

Necessary analytical methods are developed problem-oriented.

In particular element speciation is used for:

A) Investigations of neurodegenerative disorders by means of metallomics

Topic 1: Manganese related neurodegeneration (learn more)


Many studies indicate metal species being pathogenic factors for several neurodegenerative diseases. This is not simply by acute metal exposure but by low level long term effects such as changes in metabolic profiles or interfering redox couples (Fe(II)/Fe(III)) and generation of ROS. In age-related neurodegenerative diseases a tendency of proteins for folding disturbances and for aggregation and deposition in brain cells is observed on the cellular level, partly facilitated by specific metal species or species imbalances.


  • Cu/Mn misbalances influence parthogenesis of PrPc
  • Mn induces a manganese-dependent Parkinsonism-like disease

Therefore we study metal species and their metabolic pathways to/at neuronal tissue or cerebrospinal fluid. Specifically, their pass-over across blood brain barrier (BBB) was investigated since this is strictly dependent on the chemical species.


Investigation of the permeation of metal species across the human neural barrier:

  • Elevated Mn concentrations in serum before BBB are bound to transferrin AND citrate
  • Mn-citrate is THAT species entering brain WITHOUT efficient BBB control
  • Mn-citrate gets enriched in CSF across BBB, other species are downgraded (Mn-Tf, Fe-, Zn-species)

Related animal experiments: i.v. exposure and metal speciation in rat serum and organs:

  • Confirmation of increase of Mn-transferrin and Mn citrate in serum after i.v. exposure with inorganic Mn
  • Strong increase of Mn in brain and kidney after 4 days but decrease of Fe
  • Speciation confirms Mn-citrate increase and Fe-Tf decrease

Investigations about neurodegenerative mechanisms in brain:

Mild Mn exposure to rats via feed increased in brain…
…AchE activity as response to oxidative stress
…glutamate concentration
…two prostaglandins (PGB1, PGH2)
…15(S)-HETE (marker of lipid peroxidation)
…shifted Fe(II)/(III) ratio towards Fe(II)

Project 1-A: Investigation of Manganese carry over across neural barriers to brain
Project 1-B: Investigation of neurodegenerative mechanisms related to manganese - Connecting Mn-species and Mn-induced neuroinflammation


Topic 2: Selenium related health effects on neurodegeneration (learn more)

Project 2-A: Investigation of Selenium carry over across neural barriers to brain: Protection against oxidative stress?
Project 2-B: Investigation selenium speciation in newly diagnosed ALS patients

B) Investigations of element migration from implants into human tissue

Topic B-1: Ti distribution and speciation in jawbone with implants

C) Method development and validation

Topic C-1: Development and/or validation of methods for occupational health and human biomonitoring within the work group “Analysen im biologischen Material” of the DFG, supporting the Senatskommission zur Prüfung gesundheitsschädlicher Arbeitsstoffe” of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Topic C-2: Development and/or validation of methods for the analytical platform “Central Inorganic Analytics” (service)

In addition to the above mentioned research project we are involved in numerous projects on element (-species) determination together with our cooperation partners.