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Simon Hametner awarded Sobek Foundation Young Scientist Prize

MedUni Vienna neuropathologist awarded prize for study on Multiple Sclerosis
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Image: AMSEL/Martin Stollberg
Awardees and laudators, from left: Ulrich Steinbach, Burkhard Becher, Sarah-Christin Staroßom, Simon Hametner, and Klaus V. Toyka

(Stuttgart/Vienna, 3 December 2019) Simon Hametner, doctor training as a neuropathology consultant at MedUni Vienna’s Institute of Neurology has been awarded the Young Scientist Prize by the Roman, Marga and Mareille Sobek Foundation in Baden-Württemberg for an innovative approach in the study of the pathogenesis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

This year, the Roman, Marga and Mareille Sobek Foundation award ceremony was held at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart on 29 November.

The role of iron in the immunopathological process in MS
Simon Hametner investigated the significance of iron deposits in brain tissue, especially in chronic MS lesions.

In a first step, the neuropathologist provided a comprehensive picture of the changes brought about by iron deposits in the various stages of MS, which is of crucial importance in understanding the pathophysiology of demyelisation and neurodegeneration. Simon Hametner compared the changes visible in MRI scans of a large collective of MS patients with the results of neuropathological post-mortem examinations. He discovered that lesions that display an iron ring in an MRI scan, are MS-specific chronic active lesions. Iron-laden microglial cells with pro-inflammatory activation are visible at the margin of the lesion. All the indications are that MS-associated demyelisation releases iron, which in turn is absorbed by other brain cells, causing cell breakdown due to oxidative stress. The presence of iron appears to speed up the progression of neurodegeneration.
These studies are ongoing and are being conducted in collaboration with the Department of Neurology (Thomas Berger, Assunta Dal-Bianco) and the Center of Excellence for High-Field MRI (Siegfried Trattnig, Günther Grabner) of the Medical University of Vienna.

Christin Staroßom from the Institute of Medical Immunology, Berlin, took the second Young Scientist Prize. This year's main prizewinner was Burkhard Becher from the University of Zürich. He received the €100,000 award, which is the highest award in Europe for outstanding contributions to basic research in the field of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

About Simon Hametner
Simon Hametner studied medicine at MedUni Vienna and then went on to complete the N094 PhD course in "Neuroscience" with Hans Lassmann at the Center for Brain Research. After a two-year postdoc at the Center for Brain Research, he did part of his specialist training in neuropathology with Wolfgang Brück and Christine Stadelmann-Nessler at the Medical University of Göttingen in Lower Saxony. He returned to MedUni Vienna at the beginning of 2019 to complete his specialist training at the Institute of Neurology. Simon Hametner is married and has a daughter.
Sobek Research Prizes

This is now the 20th time that the Sobek Prizes have been awarded in collaboration with AMSEL, Aktion Multiple Sklerose Erkrankter, the State Association of the German Multiple Sclerosis Society (DMSG) in Baden-Württemberg e.V. and the Federal Association of the DMSG in Stuttgart. Since 2000, the Sobek Foundation from Renningen has awarded more than €2.1 million for outstanding and pioneering scientific research in the field of Multiple Sclerosis and related basic research to winners of the Sobek Research Prize and Sobek Young Scientist Prize. The aim is to promote the scientific study of MS.