Bringing two areas of expertise together could help solve modern problems of chronic inflammatory disease
Prof. Steffen Jung (l) and Prof. Werner Muller (r) are investigating the prevention of such chronic diseases as irritable bowel disease
In 2015, exactly 100 years after Dr. Chaim Weizmann discovered a new way to ferment acetone in his University of Manchester lab, the first winners were announced for a prize promoting collaboration between Israeli and British researchers. The Lord Alliance Prize, which includes a sum of ₤100,000, is furthering research into immune cells that are involved in such devastating chronic disorders as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), conducted by Prof. Steffen Jung of the Weizmann Institute of Science and Prof. Werner Muller of the University of Manchester.
Jung is an authority on immune cells called macrophages, which play a critical role in the maintenance of the body’s health and defense against disease-causing invaders, such as bacteria and parasites. Macrophages are also known to play a role in IBD, in which this immune response in the lining of the gut appears to be overactive or misdirected. Muller is an expert on modelling inflammatory disease in mice. In a 2014 joint paper published by Jung and Muller’s lab teams in Immunity, an anti-inflammatory protein called IL-10 was identified as a controller of macrophage activity, and one that regulates the macrophage immune response in the rough environment of the gut. When this protein did not make contact with the gut macrophages in mice, symptoms of colitis ensued. This study explains why children that carry mutations in the sensor of IL-10 develop severe gut inflammation, and it highlighted the importance of controlling macrophage activities to prevent chronic diseases.
The Prize was awarded during a two-day symposium concerning the Lord Alliance Get Connected Grants that fund this and other collaborative research between Weizmann Institute and Manchester groups. Britain’s Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said: “The partnership being built between Weizmann and Manchester is about the past, the present and the future. It is about the past, because it is only right to strengthen the link between the institute that bears Chaim Weizmann’s name and the university where he worked. It is about the present, because such collaboration is the best answer to those calling for boycotts of Israel and the future because I can think of no better model for relations between Israel and Britain than our world-leading scientists working together for the benefit of humanity.”
“The University of Manchester and the Weizmann Institute are both so close to my heart. To have the opportunity to bring the very best scientists together and see where their collaboration can lead has been a wonderful opportunity,” said Lord Alliance, who personally awarded the prize to Jung and Muller.
Jung and Muller expressed delight at the opportunity to continue to work together toward a worthy goal: “Only by understanding the complex ways in which our immune cells act and communicate can we hope to design treatments which may boost or suppress the immune system, as required,” said Jung. “I knew that if we got the chance to bring our laboratories together that we would both learn so much and make real progress. The prize now gives us the opportunity to build on our early results which show so much scientific promise,” added Muller.
Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.