For the public
What are we doing?
Life is not always easy. There are two ways to respond to that: run away or adapt. To put it bluntly: Animals run away, plants adapt. To secure their survival, they change metabolism, development and shape. We try to understand and to valorise this ability for change. We think that only things, we have thoroughly understood, are ready for meaningful applications.
Individual plant cells can generate an entire new organism. For us, this works only with fertilised eggs. How can a single cell create an ordered whole that is able to resist an everchanging environment? How did plants evolve this huge variety of survival strategies?
This is, what we want to understand.
But, we do not only want to understand, we want also to apply that what we have understood:
Can we use our knowledge about plant biodiversity to find new solutions for pertinent problems, for instance to safeguard consumer protection or to valorise biodiversity?
The Dyer's Woad, also known as German Indigo, is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine under the name of Ban Lan Gen genutzt. Currently, the plant is in the limelight, due to its effect against Covid symptoms. In a cooperation with chemists from Switzerland we succeeded to identify the active compound as glucobrassicine that disassembles microtubules in plant and animal cells. Since the Covid virus hijacks the microtubules of the host for its own movement, this might be the reason for the therapeutic effect of Ban Lan Gen . The work is now accepted in the Journal for Integrative Plant Biology and will be even highlighted on the front page. more...
Can we use our knowledge on the adaptability of plant cells to render crop plants more resilient to climate change through breeding or specific treatments?
Our colleague Dr. Islam Khattab identified in our collection of the highly endangered European Wild Grape (the ancestor of our domesticated Grapevine) types that are resistant to climate-born fungal diseases, because they are more efficient in activating their immune system. more...
Can we use our knowledge on plant cells to make them produce valuable medical compounds? For instance, by creating an articial chip technically mimicking a plant tissue.
Damaris Krust, PhD student with us and researcher in the Bioelektrics Group at the IHM was awarded by the Foundation Energy and Climate Protection. She could show that proteins can be extracted from the alga Chlorella traded as "Superfood" by administering an electrical impulse that commands the algae to commit suicide. Compared to conventional methods this reduces the energy requirement to 1/100. more...