General Aims of Research
Living cells are highly complex entities in which a multitude of molecules work together to make our organism function. Without proteins this would be inconceivable: They coordinate the mechanisms of the cell by implementing the information contained in the genes into cellular processes and structures. Proteins give cells their shape and are the main protagonists in all cellular processes - whether they transport substances, convey messages or carry out vital processes in their role as molecular machines.
What decices which genes are translated into proteins? How do proteins regulate highly complex cell processes and how do cells communicate with each other? Which control mechanisms are effective in these processes and what happens when errors are made?
All these are questions the scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) are seeking to answer. To elucidate the rules of cell division and specialization and to understand how cells fulfill their tasks in the body, the scientists are investigating the structure and function of the molecules involved. The size of the "study subjects" ranges in scale from the individual molecule and the cell up to the entire tissue and the organism. With this research focus, the Institute is an international leader in protein research. Increasingly, the Institute's classic research areas of structural, cell and molecular biology and biochemistry are developing in the direction of structural biochemistry, systems biology, genetics and new imaging methods. Moreover, bioinformatics are playing an ever more significant role.
Biomedical basic research is likewise an important aspect, because disturbances of cellular signal transduction or abnormal protein structures lead to diseases such as cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's. Deeper insight into the cellular mechanisms and structures also helps to better understand the pathogenesis of these diseases and to develop new strategies for therapy.
For their analyses, the researchers use a broad spectrum of ultra-modern methods partly developed directly at the MPIB. The methodological expertise, which has increased over the years and covers all of the Institute's research areas, is a particular strength of the MPIB. In particular, new methods in electron and light microscopy and mass spectrometry offer previously unimagined opportunities for gaining insights into cells.