The Else Kröner Fresenius Zentrum (EKFZ), a Center for Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has combined modern nutrition sciences with advanced medical research for nearly 20 years. The success of this concept is demonstrated by trailblazing studies on such topics as nutrition during pregnancy, diseases of the digestive organs and brown adipose tissue. The Else Kröner Fresenius Foundation and TUM have now signed an agreement for an additional 6 million euros in funding over the coming five years.
"The EKFZ has laid the groundwork for a fruitful relationship, bringing together the TUM School of Life Sciences with the TUM School of Medicine and the Department of Sport and Health Sciences, which will form the new TUM School of Medicine and Health in October 2023. The EKFZ is thus a manifestation of the innovative approach of combining modern nutrition sciences with leading-edge medical research and new preventive approaches," said TUM President Thomas Hofmann at the official signing ceremony with the foundation. "I’m delighted that our long-term cooperation with the Else Kröner Fresenius Foundation will be continued and that we have such a reliable partner."
The Else Kröner Fresenius Foundation initiated the establishment of the EKFZ at the turn of the millennium and provided 11 million euros in funding. This was followed by a second five-year funding agreement for a total of 5 million euros in 2018. The EKFZ is now a nationally and internationally recognized institution in the field of nutritional medicine. It will receive a further 6 million euros over a five-year period.
Dr. Dieter Schenk, the chairman of the foundation board, says: "The foundation sees it as its role to increase knowledge on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in the interests of patients." The chairman of the foundation’s management board, Prof. Michael Madeja, says: "The Else Kröner Fresenius Foundation is one of the largest private funding organizations in Germany. Nutritional medicine was an important priority for the foundation at an early stage. So we are supporting the continued funding and the related expansion of the Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine at TUM as an important component in both curative and preventive healthcare."
At present three professors are conducting research in project on. Hans Hauner , Professor of Nutritional Medicine, is investigating optimal nutrition strategies for treating and avoiding obesity and its consequences such as type 2 diabetes. The influence of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy on the course of the pregnancy, the birth and the health of mother and child is the focal point of a study. "We track the development of the child until the age of five. That will help us to learn more about the impact of weight management and the lifestyle of pregnant women on the obesity risk of their children. This will yield new perspectives on prevention in the womb," explains Prof. Hauner.
The working group of Heiko Witt , Professor of Pediatric Nutritional Medicine , is studying diseases of the pancreas that cause digestive disorders. Through genetic and cellular biology studies, the group hopes to identify underlying mechanisms behind pancreas malfunctions. "This will also improve our understanding of the normal function of this organ because many processes within the pancreas cells are still poorly understood," says Prof. Witt.
At the Chair of Molecular Nutritional Medicine headed by Prof. Martin Klingenspor , research on heat production in fat cells to regulate energy management will be continued and intensified. A key question is how these "thermogenic" fat cells not only boost energy consumption, but also influence hunger and satiety. "We are exploring the molecular communication mechanisms between thermogenic fat tissue and the brain," says Prof. Klingenspor.
The EKFZ is recruiting two more professors who will soon be conducting research and teaching at TUM in the area of clinical and translational nutritional medicine. In addition, the EKFZ will be expanding and professionalizing its administrative function and putting a scientific advisory council in place in which external experts from other universities and research institutes will be involved in future planning and evaluation of the center. In an inter-university cooperation, the EKFZ team is also working with Prof. Berthold Koletzko, Else Kröner-Senior Professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), whose research focuses on metabolic and nutritional issues in early childhood.