JOUR FIXE with Christoph Steininger

Function Follows Form



Functionalism in modernist architecture aims at designing a building according to its intended function (“form follows function”). Evolution, by contrast, aims at the selection of structures that accomplish a given function better than others (“function follows form”). Viruses in particular display a wide diversity of shapes and sizes. A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. The organisms developed multiple strategies to eliminate viruses – one of them being the immune system. In turn, viruses develop even more counter strategies to ensure their survival within the organism. Variations in the shape of a virus may misguide or even make the virus invisible to the immune system. A different shape may enhance but also deteriorate its function. Hence, the trade-off for invisibility may be a reduced function that may not be compatible with survival of the virus. Science aims at tipping the balance between the virus changing its shape and the immune system adapting to new viral shapes in favor of the organism.


Dr. Christoph Steininger is Associate Professor of Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna (Department of Medicine I, Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine) and board certified specialist in Virology as well as in Internal Medicine. He has in-depth knowledge of infectious diseases, virology, and immunology and has repeatedly published in international high-yield journals. He was awarded with renowned European awards in the fields of virology and infectious diseases. More recently, he conducted several successful research projects in the field of Oncovirology in close collaboration with distinct experts in the field at the University of California, San Diego. The focus of his current research is on human cytomegalovirus and its role in autoimmunity and cancer.


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JOUR FIXE with Christoph Steininger
June 29, 2012, 18:00h