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ERC Starting Grant to junior scientist

The European Research Council (ERC) grants are considered a particularly honorable distinction for scientists at all career levels. With its "Starting Grants", the ERC aims to pave the way for excellent young scientists to pursue an independent career. This year, Darjus Tschaharganeh, scientist at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), will receive the renowned grant: He plans to use the funds to decipher the significance of altered chromosome numbers in the development of cancer and cancer therapy.

Darjus Tschaharganeh (© Jutta Jung/DKFZ)

The physician Darjus Tschaharganeh plans to investigate the effects of altered copy numbers in tumor genomes on the course of cancer development. In this frequently occurring phenomenon, entire chromosome arms are deleted or duplicated. This can affect hundreds of genes simultaneously and influence the biological properties as well as the therapy of the tumor. Until now, there has been a lack of suitable methods to study such genome alterations. Tschaharganeh now wants to use the CRISPR "gene scissors" to approach the topic from two sides. On the one hand, he plans to delete entire chromosome segments in liver organoids. Organoids are three-dimensionally growing cells that form a "miniature liver" in the culture dish, which reproduces the organ in its structure and function. On the other hand, novel mouse models will provide information on the effects of the duplication of cancer-driving genes. 

Tschaharganeh studied human medicine in Rostock and Aachen. After research stays at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the university hospitals in Heidelberg and Aachen, he has been heading a junior research group as Helmholtz Young Investigator at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Institute of Pathology at Heidelberg University Hospital since 2016.