Cellular Biochemistry

The Institute for Cellular Biochemistry is headed by Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling and is concerned with existing questions from the complex process of cellular energy production.

Mitochondria – The Cells’ Powerplant

The heart muscle is constantly at work to provide the body with a sufficient amount of blood. In order to achieve the contraction performance necessary to this task, the heart needs a sufficient amount of energy at its disposal in the cells of the heart muscle. All cells of our body contain mitochondria, the powerplants for just this purpose, which are particularly efficient in the cells of the heart. The mitochondria first convert the energy stemming from food intake into the energy units our body can process, namely, ATP (adenosine triphosphate). 95% of the oxygen we inhale is used for just this purpose. Defects in the mitochondria lead to problems in the overall cell metabolism and in the end to a dissipation of energy and dysfunctions in our organs. The high energy demand of the heart muscle means it is especially dependent on being supplied with a sufficient amount of ATP.

The Institute for Cellular Biochemistry strives to understand how dysfunctions of the mitochondria lead to cardiac insufficiency and other cardiac diseases. This is done by studying models based on examples of cardiomyopathy such as the Barth Syndrome. The goal is to provide new approaches for future therapeutic venues. We are also interested in discovering the importance of energy metabolism for the course of cardiac insufficiency; here, we use biochemical methods to study isolated cells and tissue preparations. In order to better understand how disturbances of the mitochondria arise, we employ a number of different disease models, such as mouse models. The Institute is also concerned with research into various questions from molecular cell biology. Using human cells we also study the structure of individual components of the respiratory chain – the “machinery” behind the mitochondria. Dysfunctions in this process often lead to neuromuscular or cardiac diseases.

Scientific Cooperations and Training

The molecular background of the work done at our Institute puts its research squarely between that of molecular medicine and that done on clinical/physiological questions. Besides the direct application of our work for disease-relevant concerns, we are also interested in studying the basic processes responsible for the preservation and formation of functioning mitochondria. These questions have enabled a large number of cooperations with workgroups from other faculties in the research landscape of the University of Göttingen. Our workgroup has been associated with the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry since 2011.

The Institute for Cellular Biochemistry participates in the training of both medical and dental students during their preclinical studies. In addition, we teach students of molecular medicine with a focus on translational research. We also play an active role in research done on other molecular questions as part of the Max Planck Graduate School program “Molecular Biology.”

Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling
Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling
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