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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-09-01 - 2023-08-31

WIDER RESEARCH CONTEXT Infection numbers and death tolls of COVID-19 are still climbing globally, while countries are torn between implementing more lockdown measures and tentatively reopening some aspects of economic and public life.The common ground is that more and especially focused testing for SARS-CoV-2 is essential for preventing the uncontrolled spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) from respiratory specimens is the current gold-standard for diagnosis and mutation detection, but does not discriminate between infectious virus and non-infectious traces of viral RNA. Viral growth in cell culture is a direct measure of viral infectivity of a specimen, but is not amenable for routine diagnosis owing to long turnaround times and the necessity of high biosafety containment laboratories. A rapid test that determines the SARS-CoV-2 infectivity status of patients would provide front-line healthcare workers with an urgently needed tool in clinical patient management and could help to curb the spread of COVID-19, while saving precious health system resources and avoiding unnecessarily long quarantine for patients. We aim to address this bottleneck of contemporary COVID-19 diagnosis with the development of an innovative point-of-care (POC) test that allows to rapidly determine the SARS-CoV-2 variant and infectivity status of a patient. SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVES Production of soluble trimeric SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (S), receptor binding domain (RBD) and soluble ACE-2 receptor as well as ACE-2 mutants with superior binding affinity for S. Production of recombinant baculoviruses and HIV-1 Gag virus-like particles pseudo-typed with the SARS-CoV-2 spike surface glycoprotein for being used as test analytes. Discrimination of wildtype SARS-CoV-2 and currently-threatening mutants (i.e. B1.1.7,B.1.351, P1, etc.) on basis of differential DNA-RNA (from S-, N-, E- regions) hybridization using clinical patient samples. Understanding bio-surface adsorption mechanisms. APPROACH Our consortium joins forces and combines the complementary expertise of three partners, covering 1) innovative electronic biosensor design and construction on basis of already implemented systems detecting bio-molecules in real-time (AIT), 2) the recombinant expression of complex SARS CoV-2 antigen analytes and receptors and their biochemical analysis (BOKU) and the 3) validation of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests and access to clinical patient samples (MUV). LEVEL OF INNOVATION The innovation of the project is the development of a novel and rapid electronic diagnostic POC test that allows to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 in a patient sample is still intact and infective. We achieve this by concomitant detection of virus genetic material and intact virions based on an innovative bio-sensor surface in an electronic device, referenced by an optical measurement tool. PRIMARY RESEARCHERS INVOLVED: Robert Strassl, Anna Nele Herdina, Miriam Klausberger, Patrik Aspermair
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2019-01-01 - 2020-12-31

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and references to the plant abound in their literature. The plant was grown in monastery gardens of continental Europe through the Middle Ages and was introduced to Britain about the sixteenth century. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, cornelian cherry is present at some specific habitats, like the Drvar valley in the Mostar region. Similarly, Cornus mas is the lead species for an entire “Genuss-Region” in Lower Austria, the Dirndl-valley in the Pielachtal-Region. It is valued as a plant characterizing/shaping the landscape and for its many alimentary and medicinal aspects. Cornelian cherry has an attractive and impressive aroma, which influence specific tastes. Also, the high concentration of vitamin C in fruit is a feature of this species. The fruits are distinguished by high concentration of vitamin E, polyphenolic complexes, organic acids, carotenoids and anthocyanins. Epidemiological studies have shown a clear positive correlation between fruit intake and reduced heart disease, tumors, and other degenerative diseases, as well as slowing the aging process. Contemporary scientific studies have shown that oxidative stress is a major cause of various diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, malignant diseases, heart attack, stroke and other severe and chronic illnesses. Biochemical parameters, primarily antioxidants certainly prevent the emergence and development of these diseases. Inventories of Cornelian cherry fruit tress will be established on the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria. Health related compounds, like Vitamin C concentration in fruits, total phenols concentration, total anthocyanins, and antioxidant activity of the samples will be analyzed will be analyzed and a breeding strategy developed. Efforts will involve the in vitro conservation and molecular characterization of selected cultivars. This research represents the basis or starting the procedure for the protection of traditional cornelian cherry products and knowledge. This would lead to the improvement of direct sale of the products on the producers' farms, contributing to a sustainable development of local communities.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-09-01 - 2027-08-31

Aging of the skin is the most visible and obvious manifestation of organismal aging and serves as a predictor of life expectancy and health even to the layperson. It is however also the human desire for long-lasting beauty that further raises broad interest in the topic as a field of basic and applied research. Modern urban lifestyle involves exposure to pollution combined with recreational outdoor exposure to sun, and both are major external promotors of skin aging. Moreover, the age-associated accumulation of senescent cells is a major cause for visible signs of skin aging, while pollution and sunlight further promote cellular senescence. The skin is an ideal organ to observe and analyze the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic drivers of aging. It is accessible not only to classical biochemical and immunohistochemical methods of analysis, but also, as it defines the outside of the body, to non- or minimally invasive methods of investigation. The recent years have brought an explosion of analytical capability in both classical and minimally invasive methods, which we will combine within this CD laboratory to analyze how the urban exposome and senescent cells affect skin metabolism, communication and quality control. We will use a multimodal approach, the combination of various pioneering analytical imaging techniques, to investigate the initiation, promotion and chronic phases of cellular senescence in skin aging. Furthermore, we will also analyze and visualize the contribution of senescent cells to the deterioration of local microenvironments, which will promote a better understanding of the essential events in skin aging. Importantly, this visual and analytic approach allows investigating active substances for skincare that prevent or reverse deterioration of cellular metabolism and quality control.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations