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Stifterverband science prize Erwin Schrödinger Prize awarded

12.09.2011 - (idw) Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren

Researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the University Medical Center Groningen have been chosen to receive the Stifterverband science prize Erwin Schrödinger Prize 2011 for their innovative surgical technology. Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos of the Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and Prof. Gooitzen Michell van Dam of the University Medical Center Groningen jointly developed a molecular imaging process that, for the first time, makes it possible to detect tumour cells in real time during surgery by means of a fluorescence camera. The two scientists will share the 50,000 prize. Prof. Andreas Schlüter, secretary general of the Stifterverband, a joint German industry initiative for promoting science and higher education, will confer the prize at the annual meeting of the Helmholtz Association on 21 September 2011.

Operations and endoscopies are typically guided by the human eye. Yet this only enables a very restricted view into the body, since even the latest technology only allows surgeons to see into the outer tissue layers. Very small tumours hidden in the tissue remain practically invisible. This limited the options available to surgeons so far, and, as studies show, also entailed a considerable error rate. The fluorescence-based molecular imaging technology developed by these two researchers for use during surgery is a revolutionary process that greatly improves the chances of successful treatment, says Prof. Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association. Their interdisciplinary collaboration has bridged the gap between surgery and optical technology to achieve genuine progress for patients.

Tiny tumours now visible
The new technology is based on a real-time camera that can detect fluorescence in tissue. This makes it possible to find tiny tumours inside the body without damaging the tissue that surrounds them. What makes the collaborative research so innovative is its clinical application. Before the technology was introduced it was very difficult, if not impossible, to diagnose small tumour foci during an operation. Now surgeons can assess findings while an operation is still in progress. This precise and innovative method lays the groundwork for a paradigm shift in interventional procedures, says Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos. Thanks to this application we can now accurately detect and identify disease to achieve more reliable results. It greatly reduces artefacts.

Stifterverband science prize Erwin Schrödinger Prize For more than ten years the Helmholtz Association and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft have been conferring this prize, named after physicist Erwin Schrödinger, to recognise outstanding scientific and technological achievements in areas where medicine, the natural sciences and engineering meet. The Helmholtz Association and the Stifterverband alternately fund the prize each year. (JTy)

The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Aeronautics, Space and Transport. With 31,000 employees in 17 research centres and an annual budget of approximately 3.3 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germanys largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).

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Janine Tychsen
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