Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
How genes and the environment shape life
Humans and the environment form a single unit. That is how Helmholtz scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health in Neuherberg understand their work. The special approach to research is based on this particular perspective and involves the combination of ecological and biomedical research - a unique concept in Germany's scientific community. Three core responsibilities determine the work of the Helmholtz Zentrum München researchers, namely
- understanding the principles of human life,
- identifying and understanding factors that make us healthy,
- developing preventive concepts.
Scientists study the complex systems of life at the dynamic interface between factors of environmental influence and those of genetic predisposition. In this approach, they want to
- recognise health risks for humans and threats to the ecosystems as early as possible,
- unravel the mechanisms which underlie the development of disease,
- assess the environment's limits as well as the human immune mechanisms, and
- develop concepts leading to permanent prevention and cure.
Common biological mechanisms
Human and environmental health is exposed to many factors of influence which interact in a complicated way. The special research approach at the Helmholtz Zentrum München makes it possible to develop effective concepts for practical environmental and health care based on our understanding of these complex interactions. Indeed, although living creatures react differently to external stimuli, these reactions are actually based on common biological mechanisms. For example, human cells and environmental organisms respond to stress factors on the basis of similar regulation principles. And the mechanisms which play a role in human, plant and microorganism immune processes, development processes or in the development of cancer are also comparable.
Genetics has a key role to play here. The genome is partly responsible for how sensitively organisms respond to drugs or harmful influences. This is why an understanding of the interaction between genome and environment is the starting point for all research done at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. The research centre in Neuherberg employs a total of 1677 staff.