Our RE4CH Scientist of the Month for February 2020 is Dr. Friedrich Kapp from the Department of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology. He leads a research group that focuses on arteriovenous malformations. He told RE4CH a bit about his work by email:

What is the most interesting or exciting research question that you hope to answer in the next 5 years?

I would like to find out how arteriovenous malformations develop in the embryo, leading to this devastating and difficult to treat rare disease. Since I am using zebrafish embryos, I can actually observe in real-time the aberrant cellular processes as the fish and the AV-malformation develop. With this I hope to gain in-depth information about the development of AV-malformations.

What is the most difficult challenge you face in doing this research (technical, regulatory, logistical, conceptual)?

Time is a major constraint, since the clinical work is always a top priority. I try to circumvent this by technical solutions that make lab work more efficient. This recently led to a small invention, which I am very excited about.

Can you tell us something surprising about your work? Either something that was unexpected to you when you discovered it, or something that you think others would find surprising (even if you don’t)?

The fact that you can observe the formation of the vasculature from mesodermal progenitors using live-imaging in the zebrafish embryo truly fascinates me. Of course, this has been known for quite a while, but I still find it surprising how well the molecular clocks are set that regulate these processes.

Can you tell us something about your scientific career so far? Why did you become a scientist? What drew you to this particular field? Has there been a turning point or a particularly critical event or experience in your work as a scientist?

I always wanted to become a pediatrician and do oncological research. It always intrigued me, how little we know / how much there still is to find out, and this gives us the great opportunity to be very creative when trying out new ways to approach scientific problems. The field of vascular anomalies is a great combination of all of my interests, it combines the clinical care for pediatric patients and a very dynamic research field, where novel hypotheses can be tested in the lab.

How does your work directly impact children and young people and their health?

It is a long shot, but I hope that my work will allow us to give more accurate predictions about the genetic cause of vascular malformations in patients. I also hope to test and find novel drugs that can be used to treat vascular malformations.

Many thanks, Dr. Kapp, and good luck with this fascinating work! More information about Dr. Kapp’s research can be found here.