On November 1, 2020, Professor Georg Duda took up the tenured W3 Professorship for Engineering Regenerative Therapies at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The expert in biomechanics and regenerative medicine is particularly interested in the special ability of tissues such as bone and muscle to adapt to mechanical-physical stimuli through formation and degradation. The 54-year-old deputy spokesperson of the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies will continue to develop and expand the BIH and Charité’s joint focus area “Regenerative Therapies”, with a particular focus on advanced therapies.
Since the beginning of his career in research, engineer Georg Duda has been interested in tissue regeneration – a term used by physicians to describe the body’s ability to completely restore tissue and its function following injury or illness. “Bone is a prime example of this regeneration process,” says Duda. “After a fracture, a bone usually heals quickly and without scarring, fully restoring form and function. This ability is the result of a sophisticated program of self-organization and healing that is already present in healthy bone thanks to constant formation, transformation and degradation controlled by osteoblast and osteoclast cells. This ability can serve as a blueprint for any form of regeneration after illness and injury.”
Interplay between mechanical stress and inflammation
Unfortunately, there are patients for whom this regeneration is less successful, and a bone fracture or muscle injury either fails to heal or does so only very slowly. Duda and his team were able to show that, directly after a fracture or injury, the success of healing depends partly on mechanical influences and partly on certain inflammatory processes. The formation of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis, is also dependent on these influences. “It is the interplay between mechanical stress and inflammation that controls cellular self-organization and the formation and degradation of tissue. By specifically influencing this interplay, it is possible to stimulate the body’s own regeneration processes and thus, for example, enable scar-free healing. We achieve this through mechanotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of the two.”
A paradigm shift in medicine
Most new therapies are currently being developed in the field of “advanced therapy medicinal products” (ATMPs), which refers to cell and gene therapies. So-called combined ATMPs also involve the incorporation of medical technology. The goal of these modern therapies is to replace, for example, a lifelong reliance on medication or the use of artificial joints. The novel therapies should enable endogenous regeneration in situ – i.e., within the body. The idea of restoring health rather than just alleviating symptoms of disease represents a paradigm shift in medicine. “We have therefore decided to expand and further develop the Regenerative Therapies research focus together with Charité,” says Professor Christopher Baum, Chief Executive Officer of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). “We are delighted that with Georg Duda, we have gained a recognized expert in the field of regeneration for the important role of BIH Chair in this area.”
Form follows function
Georg Duda is also founding director of the Julius Wolff Institute for Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Regeneration at Charité. Julius Wolff was the first professor of orthopedics at Charité. “It was Wolff who coined Wolff’s law, which states that the shape of a bone corresponds precisely to its load,” explains Duda. “This makes Wolff the original founder of the ‘form follows function’ rule.” Wolff’s principles can be experienced today in the translational unit BeMoveD (Berlin Movement Diagnostics), which Duda runs together with colleagues from the Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery, and which offers patients advice on osteoarthritis and back pain.
As a BIH Chair, Duda wants to dedicate himself above all to the main concern of the BIH: medical translation. ”The Regenerative Therapies focus area brings together outstanding representatives from basic research and clinicians from a wide range of disciplines – from immunology, cardiology and cardiosurgery to orthopedics and surgery, and from biomechanics, materials science, mathematics and computer science to cell biology and biochemistry. Here, we can achieve effective and sustainable translation by pooling all the necessary expertise and having everyone work together. This creates a culture in which research findings are translated into applications for patients, and the experience gained in this process is fed back into basic research.”
About Professor Duda
Georg Duda was born in 1966 in Berlin and studied precision engineering and biomedical engineering at Technische Universität Berlin. He received his PhD in Biomechanics from the Hamburg University of Technology in 1996. He then went on to do postdoctoral research stints in the field of orthopedic research, both in Germany at Ulm University and in the United States at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, before setting up his own research lab in 1997 at Charité’s Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery (CMSC). In 2001, Duda qualified as a professor in Experimental Surgery at Charité and was appointed in the following year to a C3 Professorship in Biomechanics and Biology of Bone Healing. Since 2008 he has served as the director of the Julius Wolff Institute and as a W3 Professor of Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Regeneration. He is vice-director of the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies as well as spokesperson of the BSRT graduate school of the German Excellence Initiative and of the Einstein Center for Regenerative Therapies. Duda holds guest professorships for regenerative medicine and musculoskeletal sciences at University of Oxford and at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering of Harvard University.
BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies: www.bihealth.org/en/research/focus-areas/bih-regeneration-bcrt
Julius Wolff Institute for Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Regeneration: jwi.charite.de/en/
BeMoveD translational unit (in German only): https://bemoved.charite.de/