Dr. Melina Schuh
Cell Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer Institute), Göttingen
Melina Schuh was selected for the 2019 Leibniz Prize for her fundamental research into reproductive biology. Her work focuses on the production of fertilised egg cells by a type of cell division known as meiosis. This process forms the basis of sexual reproduction in higher organisms. Studying the basic mechanisms of egg development in mammals is complex because egg cells are only available in small numbers and they develop differently according to species. However, Melina Schuh has demonstrated that human egg cells differ significantly from mouse egg cells and that work with mouse models therefore provides only limited insights into human fertility and reproduction. She has also developed a method for observing chromosome segregation in individual human egg cells using imaging techniques. This method allowed her to investigate in more detail faulty segregation, which can result in trisomy 21. To switch off individual proteins in egg cells in order to understand their molecular functions in meiosis, Schuh developed a technique for the manipulation of gene development, which she was able to observe live under the microscope. It is hoped that this technique will lead to new approaches for the treatment of reduced fertility and congenital disorders in humans.
Melina Schuh studied biochemistry in Bayreuth and earned her doctorate in 2008 at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. She then moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge as a group leader, subsequently becoming a programme leader. In 2016 Schuh was appointed director of the meiosis lab at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.