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A delegation from Germany will visit San Diego on October 16 and 17 to promote American-German research collaborations and to learn more about San Diego's experience with industry-university collaborations in the field of biotechnology. The Minister for Higher Education and Research of the German State of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mrs. Anke Brunn, leads the delegation.

Mrs. Brunn's visit marks the formal establishment of a research collaboration between Shu Chien, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the UCSD School of Engineering, and G. Artmann, professor of biophysics at the University of Applied Sciences in Aachen, Germany. The research team will share scientific ideas, conduct joint experiments, and participate in visits from scientists and students in both directions. Mrs. Brunn assured financial support for the cooperation, as did Chien on behalf of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering (Laboratory of Cell and Moleculary Mechanics).

Two German students, Isgard Hueck and Herbert Willms, are currently doing research at UCSD to complete scientific studies started in Germany. The German team also attended the 1997 fall meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society, which was hosted by UCSD in San Diego from October 3 to 6.

The bioengineers have been working together informally since 1994, when Artmann spent a research sabbatical at UCSD. Artmann went on to establish a cellular engineering research group in Germany in 1995. Chien and Artmann study how changes to red blood cell membranes (the outer cell wall), affects the behavior of the cells. Changes in red blood cell behavior can impact blood flow, and the transport of molecules from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Such changes in molecular transport may affect immune system response, development of heart disease, and even the spread of cancer. In addition, the red blood cell membrane serves as a model for the behavior of membranes in a wide variety of human cells.

Red blood cells change shape in order to flow through narrow blood vessels that are smaller than the cells themselves.

"Based on our knowledge that the membrane is capable of changing shape as a result of molecular alterations, we are exploring whether chemicals or other forces could also trigger this reaction in blood cells," said Chien. These and other studies related to the molecular mechanisms of cell behavior in changing conditions will be the focus of the American-German research collaboration.

In addition to visiting with Chien, Mrs. Brunn and the German delegation will meet with UCSD administrators involved with CONNECT, Technology Transfer, the Gene Therapy Program, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Projects. The Germans will also visit Scripps Research Institute and the Salk Institute.

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