Guenter Lepperdinger

Günter Lepperdinger was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria. He attended basic Genetics and Biology Courses at the University of Salzburg, graduated in Chemistry at the Univsersity of Vienna in 1991 and holds a doctoral degree in Biochemistry. He is molecular biologist and embryologist by training, and is an Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Salzburg and an Adjunct Professor of Developmental Biology at the University of Innsbruck. He started his research career at the late Institute of Molecular Biology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, worked at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, at the National Institute for Child Health and Development, NIH Bethesda Maryland, and currently holds a position as a Principle Investigator and Section Head at the Institute for Biomedical Aging Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Innsbruck, Austria. His research interests are stem cell biology in the context of the human aging and regeneration, and biochemistry of hyaluronan metabolism in development and pathology. He is a recipient of the Christian-Doppler-Award, the Best of Biotechnology Award, and the Werner-Welzig-Award. He is an APART fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Burgen Scholar of the Academia Europeae and a Distinguished Life-Time Member of the International Society for Hyaluronan Sciences. He served as an Associate Editor for ‚Experimental Gerontology’ - Elsevier, and is the Section Editor for Regenerative Medicine and Technology of ‚Gerontology’ - Karger, as well as Editorial Board Member of several international scientific journals. He is a Co-founder and Vice President of the Austrian Scientists and Scholars in North America - ASCINA.

Günter's main academic interest is aging, and more particularly mesenchymal stem cell aging. Aging has dramatic and far-reaching effects on most organ functions, as it negatively impacts on strength, healing, bone density, and many more. As it is well perceived that stem cells are the single most important starting point for regenerative processes, the fitness of this specialized cell type is considered pivot, not only in the developing and growing organism, but seemingly decisive later during adult life. Stemness and multipotentiality of MSC undergo age-associated variations. In this respect, the basic properties of MSC have been acknowledged also for putative clinical applications, both as an emerging field on its own, as well as part of the so-called regenerative medicine. Günter's research group addresses two fundamental questions in stem cell biogerontology: (1) What age-associated mechanisms impinge on MSC stemness and integrity, and (2) which typical cellular interactions in the aging stem cell’s niche impact on their basic stem cell properties. Hence their experimental research is focusing on those cell-intrinsic and extrinsic specifications, which occur in vivo and decisively influence MSC functionality either resulting in the decline in regenerative potential, or as a direct consequence, promoting age-associated diseases. In order to gain the broadest possible insight into dynamic changes, in most projects, genomic analytical tools and approaches have been applied in the recent years. In particular in a recently initiated project Günter's team now attempted to determine the translational efficiency of MSC. Working along these lines, a novel concept of stem cell fitness is currently being specified by identifying autocrine factors and MSC-intrinsic molecular networks, which entail and account for robust proliferative capacity or stemness, together with enhanced systemic MSC endurance life. Major issues in the aforementioned context are to investigate the changes that occur in MSC with advancing age, and more than that whether these changes are causative for age-related deviations. To analytically approach this question, Günter's lab study primary MSC from bone of differently aged, yet systemically healthy human donors who undergo plastic surgery at the Craniomaxillofacioal Surgery Unit of the University Clincis Innsbruck.

The research group with its autonomous research activities further actively lobbied into strong alliances with cooperation partners at the Medical University Innsbruck and its Clinics and other academic and industry partners. These scientifically most fruitful collaborations have not only supported the department’s efforts in its prime research enterprise, which are dedicated to study MSC aging, but also complementing the endeavor of the clinical collaborators to implement novel technologies based on stem cell biology and regenerative medicine into a clinical setting. Novel concepts have been successfully seeded into extended cooperative network programs at a national and European level either being initiated or joined by the research group, such as the project “VASCUBone” – funded under EU FP7, the project “Smart Implants” - funded by the “Tiroler Zukunftsstiftung”, the project “DIALIFE” – funded in the context of Laura Bassi Center of Excellence by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency and the project “The role of MSC in the therapy of osteoarthritis” funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Research to be conducted in the context of these granted projects has commenced early 2010.