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Source: Charite – Universitatsmedizin BerlinCharité-Mediziner receives this year’s Paul Martini Prize Prof. Dr. Peter Kühnen. Photo: Peitz / Charité. Genetic disorders that lead to severe obesity that is difficult to treat are at the center of Prof. Dr. Peter Kühnen, doctor and scientist at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. He has now been awarded the Paul Martini Prize for his studies on the normalization of body weight. The prize is awarded annually by the Berlin-based foundation of the same name for outstanding achievements in clinical-therapeutic drug research. It is endowed with 50,000 euros. It is still only partially understood how hunger and body weight are regulated. However, the importance of various messenger substances and receptors that play a role in central weight regulation is known. Mutations in the corresponding genes for these messenger substances and receptors can lead to massive obesity, so-called adiposity. Even with an operation to shrink the stomach, this cannot be successfully treated, because the increased feeling of hunger persists. An active ingredient already in approval replaces a missing messenger substance and has led to success with the first patients – a weight reduction of up to 40 kilograms within less than a year, ”says Prof. Kühnen, Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology at the Charité. “At the same time, we identified other signaling pathways that not only play an important role in these rare diseases, but can also be important for more common diseases.” Kühnen initiated the studies himself and demonstrated that treatment with the active ingredient setmelanotide can normalize the feeling of hunger and lead to substantial weight reduction. So far, there have been no serious side effects, apart from stronger pigmentation of the skin and hair in some of those treated. On behalf of the six-member jury of the Paul Martini Foundation, Berlin, Prof. Dr. Stefan Endres, Director of the Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Dean of Research at the Medical Faculty of the University of Munich, said: “The award winner has identified new molecular mechanisms of obesity in an exemplary manner and implemented these findings in therapy for patients. His work is a prime example of targeted translational development. “The treatment successes prompted Prof. Kühnen to work out the role of a previously neglected signaling pathway in the body and to identify further mutations that lead to overweight and obesity due to disturbances in signal transmission. An approach that DFG Heisenberg Professor Kühnen would like to pursue in the coming years. His work combines clinical studies with basic scientific analyzes and is intended to contribute to a better understanding of human weight regulation and to establish new therapeutic strategies.

Prof. Dr. Peter Kühnen is a doctor and scientist at the Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology at the Charité, and has held a DFG Heisenberg professorship since September 2020. His work was funded by the SPARK-BIH program. In 2018, together with Charité scientist Prof. Dr. Heike Biebermann received the Galenus Prize for pharmaceutical innovations in the field of basic research. The non-profit Paul Martini Foundation based in Berlin promotes drug research and research into drug therapy and intensifies the scientific dialogue between medical scientists in universities, hospitals, the research-based pharmaceutical industry, and others Research institutions and representatives of health policy and the authorities. The foundation is run by the vfa, Berlin, with currently 45 member companies. The foundation is named after the outstanding Bonn scientist and doctor Prof. Dr. Paul Martini (1889-1964) in recognition of his special services to the promotion and further development of clinical-therapeutic research, which he has significantly shaped over decades with his “Methodology of therapeutic investigation” published in 1932. Further information: Paul Martini Foundation, Berlin.

Current publication in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology (2020) Press release on publication in Nature Medicine (2018)

ContactProf. Dr. Peter Kühnen Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlint: +49 30 450 553 857

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