During his postdoctoral work at IMBA - Institute for Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences - Reiner Wimmer succeeded in generating human blood vessels from stem cells in Josef Penninger's laboratory. The so-called blood vessel organoids very accurately reflect the anatomy and the molecular signatures of human capillaries, the smallest vessels of our blood circulation. This breakthrough technology was then used by the researchers to study diabetic vascular complications, the major cause of death and morbidity in diabetes, affecting millions of people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, very little was known about the vascular changes arising from diabetes - in part because human model systems that fully recapitulate these changes were missing. In their work described in the journal Nature earlier this year, Reiner Wimmer and the team around Josef Penninger could identify novel proteins that play a key role in the development of diabetic vascular complications and could be attractive targets for developing novel therapies for patients in the future.
Vascular organoids from pluripotent stem cells, that can be retrieved from patient blood by a process called reprogramming, are also a promising model system for several other blood vessel disorders. “Our model system allows us to generate the blood vessels from patients suffering from stroke, Alzheimer or vascular malformations, in our laboratories. This is totally changing the way we can study those vascular diseases and is very promising for the development of novel therapies for patients.” says Reiner Wimmer.
About Reiner Wimmer
Reiner Wimmer, originally from Altötting region in Southern Germany, completed his diploma studies in biotechnology at the Weihenstephan University of Applied Sciences in Freising in 2006. He received his doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Vienna in 2012 in the lab of Manuela Baccarini. Subsequently, Reiner Wimmer has been a postdoctoral fellow at the IMBA Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
About the Elisabeth Lutz Prize
The Elisabeth Lutz Prize by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, worth 15,000 euros, is awarded to scientists (up to a maximum of eight years after their doctorate) for basic and applied research in the field of life sciences, in particular for new findings or innovative research approaches that could subsequently be helpful for the development of new therapeutic approaches.
IMBA - Institute of Molecular Biotechnology - is one of the leading biomedical research institutes in Europe focusing on cutting-edge stem cell technologies, functional genomics, and RNA biology. IMBA is located at the Vienna BioCenter, the vibrant cluster of universities, research institutes and biotech companies in Austria. IMBA is a subsidiary of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the leading national sponsor of non-university academic research. The stem cell and organoid research at IMBA is being funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and the City of Vienna.