Skip to main content

vfwf habilitation and dissertation prizes awarded

Association for the Promotion of Science and Research honours MedUni Vienna researchers
All News

(Vienna, 12 March 2021) The vfwf (Association for the Promotion of Science and Research) presented the prizes for the best dissertations and habilitation theses produced at MedUni Vienna during 2020. The awards went to Philipp Bartko for his habilitation thesis and Bianca S. Gerendas and Hannes Vietzen for their dissertations. The prize-winners were announced during the Day of the Medical University of Vienna.

Students were able to submit degree theses completed at MedUni Vienna during 2020 to be considered for the awards.

Hannes Vietzen (Center for Virology) – Dissertation Prize

Title: Dissection of the human cytomegalovirus-specific antibody and natural killer-cell responses in lung-transplant recipients

Although human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections are usually asymptomatic in healthy individuals, lung transplant recipients, in particular, can suffer serious complications that can even extend to higher mortality. Since there is currently no effective vaccine against HCMV in transplant recipients, there is much interest in identifying protective HCMV-specific immune responses that can limit virus replication. In their studies, Hannes Vietzen and his colleagues have now shown for the first time that the risk of a viraemic HCMV episode in lung transplant recipients is, to a large extent, a function of HCMV-specific natural killer (NK) cell-induced antiviral immune responses. NKG2C+ NK cells in particular play a key role in this and therefore even the partial deletion of the NKG2C coding gene is associated with an enhanced risk of high viral load. Moreover, genetic variants in other viral and human factors that are essential for activation of NKG2C+ NK cells are also significantly associated with the risk of high HCMV viraemia. A generally weak NKG2C+ NK cell response was associated with an enhanced risk of a viraemic HCMV episode, so that HCMV-specific NK cells are a worthwhile target for antiviral therapies.

Vietzen H, Gorzer I, Puchhammer-Stockl E. Association of Human Immunoglobulin G1 Heavy Chain Variants With Neutralization Capacity and Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity Against Human Cytomegalovirus. The Journal of infectious diseases. Oct 15 2016;214(8):1175-9. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiw315

Vietzen H, Gorzer I, Honsig C, Jaksch P, Puchhammer-Stockl E. Association between antibody functions and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) replication after lung transplantation in HCMV-seropositive patients. The Journal of heart and lung transplantation : the official publication of the International Society for Heart Transplantation. Jul 18 2017;doi:10.1016/j.healun.2017.07.010

Vietzen H, Pollak K, Honsig C, Jaksch P, Puchhammer-Stockl E. NKG2C Deletion Is a Risk Factor for Human Cytomegalovirus Viremia and Disease After Lung Transplantation. The Journal of infectious diseases. Feb 14 2018;217(5):802-806. doi:10.1093/infdis/jix608

Vietzen H, Görzer I, Honsig C, Jaksch P, Puchhammer-Stöckl E. HCMV-Specific Antibody Response And Development Of ADCC Against HCMV After Lung Transplantation. The Journal of infectious diseases. Mar 11 2020;doi:10.1093/infdis/jiaa097

Vietzen H, Rückert T, Hartenberger S, et al. Extent of cytomegalovirus-replication in the human host depends on variations of the HLA-E/UL40 axis mBio, Accepted for Publication. Feb 09 2021.

Bianca S. Gerendas (Department of Ophthalmology and Optometrics) – Dissertation Prize

Title: From Qualitative to Quantitative Retinal Image Analysis: How eye doctors will be supported by artificial intelligence in the future.

Ever since ophthalmology was established as a separate medical discipline, imaging techniques, particularly retinal imaging, have played a major role in it. Initially the retina was photographed and this is of particular importance for identifying peripheral retinal diseases such as diabetic retinal disease. Nowadays, the centre of the retina (macula) is now scanned by means of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). This involves three-dimensional sectional images of the retina (several hundred images per examination) of approximately 6 mm in width and 0.5 mm in depth. In future, automated quantification methods will play a key role in evaluating such OCT image datasets in the everyday practice of ophthalmologists, since, due to improved resolution, the number of images is constantly increasing and doctors are no longer able to assess all of the images themselves. Machine Learning automatic algorithms are much faster and less subjective than humans and can therefore support ophthalmologists in their diagnosis and therapeutic decision-making. In Gerendas' dissertation, she evaluated various imaging biomarkers using OCT. This paper lays the foundations for translation of theoretical basic science (algorithm development) so that it can be actively incorporated within routine clinical practice. This paper has significantly broadened our pathophysiological understanding of the individual biomarkers and should allow personalised treatment of patients in the future.

Philipp Bartko (Department of Medicine II, Division of Cardiology) – Habilitation Prize

Title: Functional Valve Regurgitation on the Threshold of a Solution: from Paradoxes to Unifying Concepts

Secondly mitral insufficiency (SMI) and secondary tricuspid regurgitation (STR) are often accompanied by the full spectrum of cardiac insufficiency. Both conditions are associated with excessive mortality. There is a huge discrepancy between American and European treatment guidelines when it comes to the definition thresholds. This is significant with regard to potential invasive interventions and shows that completely different cohorts are treated in the USA and in Europe. Using three-dimensional imaging and echocardiography, Philipp Bartko was able to identify potential solutions that would lead to a lasting improvement in risk stratification and the management and treatment of secondary valve insufficiencies. A unifying quantification concept uses a multi-parametric approach that provides much better risk stratification and can therefore bring about a lasting improvement in patient management.

The vfwf
The charitable "Association for the Promotion of Science and Research in the New Viennese Departments at the City of Vienna's General Hospital" was founded in 1995, exclusively for scientific purposes, and has the following aims:

•    To promote future-oriented teaching and research in the new Viennese departments, in keeping with the very latest European and international knowledge and methods.
•    To uphold the tradition of Vienna Medical School.
•    To develop guidelines and possible solutions for forward-looking structuring of the Austrian healthcare system.
•    To promote future-oriented interdisciplinary collaboration between all relevant medical, economic, legal and socio-political disciplines with the aim of overcoming future problems in basic and applied medical research.
•    To cultivate contacts with recognised experts throughout the world.
•    To promote the scientific, health-policy and social position of the new Viennese departments within all relevant social groups.
•    To publish publications, brochures and books.
•    To organise and finance regular conferences and symposia and establish a permanent "Vienna Medical School Science Forum".