DPZ scientists meet Colombian Ambassador
Jens Gruber and Nicolás Lemus from the Research Group on Medical RNA Biology met with María Lorena Gutiérrez Botero during her visit to the University of Göttingen
The reason for the Ambassador’s one-day stay was to hold meetings concerning the German-Colombian Peace Institute (DKFI) in Bogota. The University of Göttingen played an important role in establishing the Institute and creating multiple research collaborations, with a few other non-university institutions.
The Ambassador’s visit on 20 January 2017 included a meeting with Colombian students, scientists and cooperation partners. During an informal meeting with coffee and cake, the guests were given an opportunity to exchange ideas with Gutiérrez Botero on a variety of topics concerning the German-Colombian cooperation. Jens Gruber and Nicolás Lemus of the Research Group on Medical RNA Biology at the DPZ participated in the conversation. Their research deals with questions concerning the function of small non-protein-coding RNAs in the body; they examine their role in the emergence of various diseases and help to develop treatment methods.
The DPZ scientists used the opportunity to introduce themselves to the Ambassador and to talk with her about their new cooperation project with Colombia. The main focus of the project is the analysis of mesenchymal stem cells obtained from a special substance known as the Wharton jelly of the umbilical cord. Stem cells are undifferentiated and thus, able to develop into all cell types of the body. These "jack-of-all-trade" cells are therefore mainly used in regenerative medicine for the treatment of various serious diseases, such as leukemia.
"The stem cells from the Wharton’s jelly have a special function," says Jens Gruber, head of the research group on Medical RNA Biology. "They produce substances that positively influence the immune responses in the body. Among other things, they are also responsible for the growth stop of tumor cells, the so-called Tumor Dormancy. We want to find out what the substances are that the cells produce, their function, and how to manipulate them for therapeutic purposes."
The reason for the cooperation with scientists at the Instituto Distrital de Ciencia, Biotecnología e Innovacion en Salud (IDCBIS) in Bogotá is therefore as follow: The institute in the Colombian capital has a stem cell bank and the necessary expertise in cell cultivation and conservation. "However, the institute in Colombia lacks the infrastructure for the molecular genetic manipulation of cells," says Gruber. “To make sure that we have a very good cooperation within the project, we will be in charge of the latter.”
Nicolás Lemus, a native Colombian and doctoral candidate in the research group, will also be involved in the project. Through his medical studies and his scientific education at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá he was able to establish his first contacts with staff at the institute. The cooperation project was initiated because of his decisive commitment.
During the meeting, Gruber and Lemus spoke to the Ambassador about cooperation possibilities. María Lorena Guitérrez Botero was very interested and invited both scientists to a meeting with the partners from Bogotá at the Berlin Embassy.
The start of the research project is set for April 2017 and is funded for two years. Nearly 100,000 euros were requested in the current bilateral funding by the BMBF and the Colombian COLCIENCIAS. The money will mainly be used for the development of scientific and technical cooperation between the Institute in Bogotá and the DPZ in Göttingen but also for personnel exchanges, workshops and travel costs.
María Lorena Gutiérrez Botero (56) is a business economics graduate with a PhD in finance. Since 18 August 2016 she has held the office of Ambassador for the Republic of Colombia. She previously served as Minister of the Presidential Office of the Colombian Government as well as Deputy Minister of Mining and Energy. In addition, Gutiérrez Botero has received numerous national and international acknowledgments and has been a member of the Council of Ministers (2010-2016) at CONFIS where she was as a member of the Security Council and served on the Advisory Council for Peace.