The Pitzer Laboratory of Osteoarthritis Research investigates cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to the development of osteoarthritis. Our hypothesis is that environmental signals such as overloading, injury or inflammation trigger stress in chondrocytes. Under stress, they then produce inferior cartilage, degrade articular cartilage or undergo apoptosis. In three-dimensional cell cultures of human chondrocytes under hypoxia, we show that stimulation of selected Toll-like receptors impairs cartilage matrix production and induces a catabolic, inflammatory state. Furthermore, we identified candidate genes that may control the growth of blood vessels and bone in the joint area. This finding could be therapeutically useful to limit cartilage ossification and the formation of osteophytes in osteoarthritis.
Prof. Dr. Max Löhning is head of the Pitzer Laboratory of Osteoarthritis Research at the German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin (DRFZ) and at the Charité – University Medicine Berlin.
M.L. studied Biology at the University of Mainz and did his dissertation in immunology at the Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne (2000). He was a visiting researcher at William E. Paul (NIH, NIAID, Bethesda, MD), and at Kenneth M. Murphy (Washington University-School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO), USA, and then a postdoctoral fellow of Schering Foundation with Rolf M. Zinkernagel and Hans Hengartner at the Institute of Experimental Immunology, ETH and University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland (2003-2006). Then he was appointed Lichtenberg Professor of Experimental Immunology, supported by Volkswagen Foundation, at the Charité – University Medicine Berlin (2006-2015). In 2015, he was appointed University Professor of Osteoarthritis Research at the Charité and head of the Pitzer Laboratory of Osteoarthritis Research, funded by Willy Robert Pitzer Foundation, at the DRFZ Berlin.
He was awarded several prizes: the Georges-Köhler-Prize (2010) and Otto-Westphal-Prize (2000) from the German Society for Immunology (DGfI), the Avrion-Mitchison-Prize for Rheumatology (2000) of the Ernst Schering Foundation, and the Robert Koch Foundation’s Postdoctoral Award (2004). He is member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and spokesperson of the class Biological Sciences and Medicine.