Deciphering Internet of tissue: European Research Council recognises FAU researcher

After going through a highly competitive selection process, researcher Prof. Dr. Stefan Uderhardt has been successful in his bid for project funding from the European Research Council (ERC). Uderhardt, who works at Department of Medicine 3 at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, has been awarded a total of approximately 1.5 million euros for his project over the next five years.

He was recognised for his outstanding contribution to science to date and for his particularly innovative research project. He now hopes to use the funding to investigate the ‘Internet of connective tissue’ in our body, with the aim of finding out how the body launches targeted immune reactions against threats.

Over recent years, Stefan Uderhardt has made pioneering discoveries about the basic functions of tissues in the body, in particular how they protect our body by preventing excessive immune reactions. He was able to demonstrate that specialised tissue-resident macrophages constantly rush to repair small-scale tissue damage and shield the body from further damage without triggering a larger, more energy-intensive inflammatory reaction. The mechanisms triggering these macrophages and the workings behind local communication have remained largely unknown until now.

In his project named ‘Network Synergies in Stromal Tissue Homeostasis and Prevention of Inflammatory Disease’, Stefan Uderhardt suggests a revolutionary concept revolving around an ‘Internet of tissue’ which communicates the place, time and extent of the damage to the macrophages.

This Internet of tissue is based on stromal tissues. Although it was originally thought that their function was simply to support the tissue, it now appears as if they are central to data and communication within the tissue. Prof. Uderhardt’s research investigates how stromal cells communicate with the macrophages, the ’tissue workers’, sending them out to repair the specific damage.

About Stefan Uderhardt

Stefan Uderhardt studied medicine at FAU and began to train as a specialist in rheumatology and clinical immunology at Department of Medicine 3 under Prof. Dr. Georg Schett. Following a five year research stay at the renowned the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA, he has been in charge of his own research group at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen in conjunction with the Optical Imaging Centre Erlangen (OICE) since 2020, and has been an assistant professor for rheumatology at FAU since 2021.

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