Analytical methods that simultaneously map information on different classes of molecules and their spatial distribution patterns are needed in order to understand when and where in the body the biological decision between disease and health is made. The aim of the work in the research programme of the same name is to identify biomarkers for early diagnosis or personalised therapy using 4D analytics. Reliable markers expand the possibilities of evidence-based diagnostics in modern medicine, allowing for differentiated and individualised therapy. Marker-based diag- noses make it possible to classify diseases into subtypes and thus to specifically adapt treatments for individual patients.

Biological markers can be all sorts of molecules, large or small. For example, amino acids, lipids and metabolites can be used to make specific statements about metabolic changes and the modulation of protein functions. Proteins often serve as markers for the alteration of cellular structures, signalling pathways within a cell or in tissues. Researchers at ISAS are working to identify, investigate and validate biomarkers for various disease patterns and stages. The »Biomarkers« research programme focuses on markers for use in cardiovascular diseases, cardio-oncology and diseases such as metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

High-precision measurement techniques are a prerequisite

In addition to detecting and verifying biomarkers, the scientists are researching methods for improving the detection of the markers in complex biological matrices. Given the huge number of potential analytes in biological systems, high-precision measurements are required.

The research programme includes, for example, the »Targeted and Non-Targeted Metabolomics« project in which researchers are using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyse the metabolome of three-dimensional cell cultures (organoids). Using NMR spectroscopy, the scientists are able to specifically observe defined metabolite sets for the early  diagnosis of diseases or for monitoring the success of therapies. They also apply non-targeted analyses to the study of metabolic networks.

New BMBF junior research group Spatial Metabolomics 

The term omics is used in research to describe molecular biological methods, such as genomics, lipidomics, metabolomics or proteomics, with which biomolecules from tissue samples or other biological samples can be examined on a global level. Omics technologies are an important starting point in precision medicine because they produce large amounts of data, which provide information about disease processes and potential therapeutic approaches. The research group Spatial Metabolomics, established at ISAS in 2021 and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the leadership of Dr Prasad Phapale, is dedicated to the development of tools for the integration of omics data sets. To this end, the junior research group will use various analysis techniques such as MALDI (matrix assisted laser desorption/ionisation), mass spectrometry or light and fluorescence microscopy.


Prof. Dr. Albert Sickmann

Programme Coordinator