Trailblazing successes in German research
The ion-beam therapy developed in Germany for treating cancer makes it possible to reach tumours that are located deep inside the body with millimetre precision and without damaging healthy tissue. Ion radiation is not as harmful as conventional radiation methods. High cure rates and fewer side-effects are some of the advantages of this new form of therapy.
Doctors and scientists at University Hospital Cologne have a key role to play in the success of German research. Thanks to the work of a networked study group over the course of 25 years, diagnostics, treatment and follow-up care have been improved significantly, and the chances of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma being cured have doubled.
Back in the 1980s, German researchers revolutionised magnetic resonance imaging with FLASH technology, a faster measuring method. This paved the way for the use of MRI as a standard method in medical diagnostics. Thanks to FLASH technology, complex, multi-dimensional images of the human body can be generated in a matter of minutes and a beating heart can even be visualised. This technology is now used in all modern MRI scanners.
Up until the 1970s, doctors assumed that stem cells were located in the bone marrow and cell donation was only possible by surgically removing bone marrow from the pelvic bone. German scientists managed to develop methods for collecting stem cells in a less complicated procedure in which blood is taken from a vein in the arm. This procedure is now used all over the world.
The development of minimally invasive surgery methods was largely thanks to German companies. This less invasive form of surgery is now a standard procedure in almost all operating theatres. In the field of medical diagnostics, Germany has also produced innovations. The German company Siemens Healthcare, for instance, joined forces with a Japanese company and, in 2010, launched the patient-friendly magnetic capsule endoscopy on the market. With this method, the patient swallows a capsule containing a tiny camera, which is magnetically controlled and delivers high-resolution images of the stomach and intestine.
A German doctor discovered that human papilloma viruses type 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer. Based on this finding, it has been possible to develop a vaccine against these viruses. Today, young women and girls all over the world can be vaccinated against cervical cancer.
Important figures in the history of German medicine
With his research into the causative agent of anthrax in the late 19th century, Robert Koch laid the foundation stone for the fight against infectious diseases which at that time posed a serious threat to humans and animals. Doctors were often powerless until Robert Koch managed to isolate bacteria that cause diseases for the first time ever. Thanks to his findings, it was possible to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. In honour of this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905.
In the 1930s, Max Delbrück, often also called the "father of molecular biology", discovered the importance of the DNA molecule and proved in his research work how genes can change due to mutation. Delbrück, who was in fact a physicist, and his interdisciplinary work with biology paved the way for modern molecular biology and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for this work in 1969.
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
In modern medicine, x-radiation, ultrasound and MRI help doctors to identify the cause of disease at an early point in time and with great precision, because these methods allow us to look inside the human body. In 1895, the foundation stone was laid in the development of imaging methods when German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered Röntgen rays, more commonly known as x-rays.