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DPZ gets new head of research unit

Susann Boretius will lead the new DPZ imaging center as a joint professor between the Göttingen University and the German Primate Center.
Prof. Susann Boretius is joint professor for Functional Imaging at the Göttingen University and head of the new research unit at the German Primate Center. Photo: FotoStube Hornig
Das Bildgebungszentrum des DPZ. Das Gebäude beherbergt zwei MRT-Scanner, Labore sowie Haltungseinheiten fuer nichtmenschliche Primaten. Foto: Karin Tilch
The imaging center of the German Primate Center. The building contains two MRI scanner, laboratorys, and indoor enclosures for non human primates. Photo: Karin Tilch
Blick in den Kopf: MRT-Schnittbilder vom Gehirn einer Maus (Mus musculus), eines Weissbüschelaffens (Callithrix jacchus), eines Totenkopfaffens (Saimiri sciureus) und eines Menschen (Homo sapiens). Aufnahme: Susann Boretius
Insights into the head: MRI images of the brain of a mouse (Mus musculus), a common marmoset (Calitrix jacchus), a squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) and a human (Homo sapiens). Image: Susann Boretius
Hochaufgelöste MRT-Schnittbilder des (links) Gehirns, (Mitte) des Herzens und (rechts) der Niere einer Maus. Aufnahme: Susann Boretius
High-resolution MRI images of the (left) brain, (middle) of the heart and (right) the kidney of a mouse. Inage: Susann Boretius
Ein Rhesusaffe im Außengehege des DPZ. Mit MRT wollen die Wissenschaftler zukünftig die Funktionsweise der Gehirns von dieser und anderen Affenarten untersuchen. Foto: Karin Tilch
Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) in the outdoor enclosure at the German Primate Center. Using MRI, the scientists will research the functions of the brains of these and further primate species. Photo: Karin Tilch

The Göttingen University and the German Primate Center have jointly established a professorship for Functional Imaging. The official launch is on July 1, 2015. The new professor in charge is the veterinarian and physicist Susann Boretius, who has been a professor for Biomedical Imaging at Kiel University since 2011. In addition to the professorship, Boretius will be in charge of the new Functional Imaging Unit of the Neuroscience Section at the German Primate Center. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists of the new unit will research the structure and functions of the brains of primates.

Through the implementation of strong magnetic fields and radio waves, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides us with an inside view of the body. Without the use of harmful ionizing radiation, this method facilitates spatially high-resolution images of organs such as the heart or the brain. "Magnetic resonance imaging continually allows us a clearer view of the interior of an intact living organism," says Susann Boretius. "My research aims to improve and further develop the spatial and temporal resolution of this method by use of innovative principles, the so-called contrast mechanisms."

Besides obtaining precise anatomical images, the aim is also to get important information on the physiology, metabolism and function of individual organs. Brain research is a specific focus of the new research unit. High spatial resolution images that reflect the activity of nerve cells, structural links and the interaction of individual brain regions, provide information on how structures, functions and the metabolic activity of the brain changes with increasing age or as a result of neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, the method contributes to a better understanding and closer diagnosis of brain diseases.

"A major advantage of MRI lies in the non-invasiveness", adds Boretius. “The method can be used on humans as well as on different primate species and small animals such as mice and rats. This enables comparative studies between different species and builds important bridges between the various methodological approaches, not only in brain research but also in cardiac and age research".

Susann Boretius has a Ph.D. in veterinary science and is a physicist. She has many years of experience as a veterinarian and doing research with magnetic resonance imaging at the Biomedical NMR Research (GmbH) of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. In 2011, she became Professor for Biomedical Imaging at the Kiel University, where she had a leading position in the Molecular Imaging North Competence Center.

With her unit, Susann Boretius will continue her research in the newly built imaging center of the DPZ in Göttingen. The building, that was inaugurated in April this year, houses in addition to laboratories, offices and animal keeping facilities two magnetic resonance imaging scanners, which are suitable for larger monkeys and humans as well as for smaller primates and rodents.

In future, the imaging technology will not only be available for researchers at the DPZ but also for other research institutions of the Göttingen Campus. Cooperation with the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases is planned.

"I look forward to the new working environment in Göttingen," says the new head of the Functional Imaging Unit. "The German Primate Center, with its modern imaging center, the close link to the university through the newly established joint professorship and last but not least, the high-quality international research environment make Göttingen an ideal place to pursue my research ideas."