Forschungsschwerpunkt - AG Prof. Pfaffl
The focus of research is the molecular physiology of animals and humans. Using modern biochemical and molecular biology techniques, experimental research focuses on foundations and innovations in the endocrine and paracrine regulation of human health and animal health & welfare.
A second focus is the development of diagnostic and circulating biomarker signatures in liquid biopsies by using high throughput –omics profiling technologies and integrative multivariate biostatistical methods.
Extracellular Vesicles (EV's)
Beside the traditional endocrine signalling via hormones and cytokines to regulate growth, reproduction, or lactation, the endocrine-like regulation via extracellular vesicles (EVs, micro-vesicles and exosomes) is currently the key research aspect. EV research and biomarker discovery in human cohorts is done in collaboration with clinical departments located at TUM & LMU university hospitals and Munich city hospitals. The clinical focus is on various cancer types, critical ill patients, sepsis, also in connection to bacterial membranes vesicles (MV).
Misuse Detection of Doping and Anabolic Agents
Many medical techniques and substances are abused in high-performance sports or livestock farming with the aim to enhance oxygen capacity or muscle growth, exemplarily. The detection of those abuses is still challenging, but necessary to minimize drug-caused adverse effects. The use of RNA next generation sequencing allows us to screen for non-physiological differences in liquid biopsies (EVs and biofluids, e.g. blood, urine, saliva, etc.) without a priori knowledge and paves the way for biomarker development.
Immunophenotyping in Bovine Blood and Milk
Flow cytometry is a routinely used method in basic research as well as in clinical applications. Cells can be characterized, for example by analyzing the expression of surface molecules, and thus it is possible to quantify not only the major leukocyte populations but far more sub-populations of immune cells.
Applying this technique to blood and milk in parallel enables us to determine the different distributions of immune cells and to document the changes in the percentages of cells, for example during one lactation period or in different health conditions. Based on the obtained values we are searching for biomarkers that can serve as heath and wellfare indicators in cattle and dairy cows.
Sub[my]track-Project - Nanoplastics
According to the “BUND”, in 2016, 38 kg of plastic packaging waste was produced in Germany per capita (Plastic Atlas 2019, ISBN 978-3-86928-200-8). Since plastic is mostly a non-biodegradable or only slowly degradable material, it accumulates in the environment.
Humans and animals come into contact with plastic every day, for example through packaging and everyday objects. Particularly the influence of nanoplastics (<1µm) on our environment, human and animal health has been little researched. Using cell culture models and the assessment of cell morphology by Electric Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing technology (=ECIS), we investigate possible effects of nanoplastics, especially in gastrointestinal tract: on cell growth, viability, morphology and gene expression. The project is funded by BMBF, is part of the joint project Subµtrack, and involves interdisciplinary project partners in science and industry.
Methods & Data Analysis
The group uses a broad range of analytical techniques in cell- and molecular-biology, with a focus on real-time RT-qPCR, high-throughput RNA Seq. to quantify mRNA, long-non coding-RNA and microRNA expression profiles. The department works experimentally directly with humans or livestock (cattle, pig, fish) as well as in established cell- or tissue-culture models.
Complex data analysis is performed using integrative biostatistical methods and multivariate algorithms. Goal is the discovery of meaningful biomarker signatures, biological pathway analysis and to investigate regulatory transcriptional networks.