Prof. Dr. Elvira Mass selected as new EMBO Young Investigator junior scientist

Prof. Dr. Elvira Mass from the LIMES Institute, photo: Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

Prof. Elvira Mass, developmental biologist at the LIMES Institute of the University of Bonn and member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2, will join the EMBO Young Investigator Program on 01.01.2022. The program supports selected young European scientists with outstanding achievements in the field of life sciences. The award is linked to a financial support of 15,000 €, which can be extended by up to 10,000 € per year. Prof. Elvira Mass and her team study the development and function of resident macrophages - phagocytes that are present in almost every tissue and, as part of the innate immune system, are an important part of the body's defense system.

Macrophages form the first line of defense against pathogens by ingesting them and breaking them down into their components (antigens). They present these antigens to other cells of the immune system and produce cytokines, which elicits an adapted immune response. According to recent scientific findings, however, resident macrophages have more tasks than previously thought:  Beyond their classical role as scavenger cells, resident macrophages most likely significantly contribute to organ development. The team led by Prof. Elvira Mass investigates the function of resident macrophages in brain development. For this purpose, she recently received an ERC Starting Grant to investigate potential hazards of nanoplastics ingested with the food. The aim is to clarify whether the nanoplastic reaches our organs, whether it is taken up there, especially by macrophages, and whether it can induce  or contribute to the development of neurological diseases in the long term ( . 

However, the paradigm shift in the field of resident macrophages does not only apply to the function, but also to the origin of the phagocytes. Resident macrophages have been shown to develop in many organs during embryonic development and to self-renew in adult tissues under homeostatic conditions. Prof. Elvira Mass's team is interested in understanding the contribution of resident macrophages to homeostatic function during organ development, but also in the process of various disease conditions such as obesity or infectious diseases. 

Born in present-day Kazakhstan, the Russian-German earned her PhD in Molecular Biomedicine at the University of Bonn, Germany, and returned to her alma mater after a three-year research stay at King's College London and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In 2017, she started the research group Developmental Biology of the Innate Immune System at LIMES Institute. In 2019, Elvira Mass was appointed W2 Professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, but was reappointed to the University of Bonn in 2020. 

The scientific environment at the LIMES Institute and the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2 at the University of Bonn offers Prof. Elvira Mass an optimal environment for her research. This is based on the common scientific focus of the researchers at LIMES and other institutes united in the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2, as well as the connection to several national international research networks. With the EMBO Young Investigator award, this environment is now extended by a renowned network. In addition to direct financial support, Prof. Elvira Mass and her team will also benefit from training and mentoring opportunities linked to the award over the next 4 years.  


Dr. David Fußhöller
Science Communication and Public Relations
Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2
University Clinics Bonn
Venusberg-Campus 1
53117 Bonn

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