Scientists of the Future Promotion Award 2005 presented by the Leibniz Association goes to HPI

Friday, 18. November 2005

Dr. Anneke Funk (27) was the recipient of the Leibniz-Scientists of the Future Award 2005. She received this outstanding award at a ceremony in Bonn commemorating the 11th anniversary of the Leibniz Association. Anneke Funk wrote her doctoral dissertation at HPI in Hamburg between 2002 and 2004 in the project group of dr. med. Hüseyin Sirma in the department for general virology. The faculty of Biology at the Technical University of Darmstadt appraised her work "The identification and functional modulation of essential cellular components for the propagation of Hepatitis B –viruses with a complete rating of "outstanding". Professor Hans Will, director of the department for general virology at HPI, affirmed that Anneke Funk has "the talent, the energy, the creativity, as well as the intellectual capacity for a very successful scientific career."

Anneke Funk examined the progression of the first hours of Hepatitis –B infection and the procedure in which the virus invades the liver cells in order to proliferate.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately two billion people-roughly one-third of the world’s population – has experienced an infection with this virus at some point in their lives. Globally, 300 to 400 million people currently have a chronic Hepatitis-B infection and suffer persistently from the various effects of related liver damage. Although an effective inoculation against Hepatitis-B exists, one million people die each year of the effects of liver inflammation, to which liver failure, cirrhotic liver and cancer of the liver are attributed.

Anneke Funk has been able to illustrate, in diverse "extremely difficult and painstaking experiments" (Hans Will), how the first hours of the virus infection progresses and manner in which the virus penetrates and invades the liver cells. Experts in this field were surprised to learn, for example, that the virus penetrates the host cell within three hours, but there requires around fifteen hours to forge its way to the cell nucleus. Viruses are the very simplest of organisms. They possess no metabolic system and require a host cell in order to propagate. Anneke Funk’s experiments demonstrate that the virus does not advance to the cell nucleus by means of the so-called "Aktin-skeleton", but rather utilizes the so-called microtubules during the first four hours following the penetration of the cell. Anneke Funk: "These microtubules function as tracks, along which viral substance is transported in the cells in micro-containers. The young scientist investigated in various astute experiments, what occurs when the microtubules are immobilized within the critical time period.
The surprising result: The infection is unfailingly neutralized.

However, not only structures of the host cell, but also certain fatty substances on the surface of the Hepatitis-B virus influence its degree of infectiousness. Anneke Funk discovered that the extraction of cholesterol from the Hepatitis-B surface prevents an infection.

Anneke Funk obtained her results by means of an "aviary model system" – to be precise – duck liver cells. Yet, Hans Will is certain that these new scientific findings constitute a "rational and excellent basis for the development of new kinds of antiviral medication for the prevention of and therapy for chronic Hepatitis-B." Good news for the liver.

For further Information:
Dr. Anneke Funk