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Heidelberg, 14 December 2015 Turning point of a lifetime For the first time, scientists can observe the first two to three days of a mouse embryo’s life, as it develops from a fertilised egg up to the stage when it would implant in its mother’s uterus, thanks to a new light sheet microscope developed at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany.
Heidelberg, 2 December 2015 Drugging bacteria Metformin, the drug most often used to treat type 2 diabetes, has a greater effect on gut microbes than the disease itself. The finding, by scientists at EMBL and colleagues, has implications for studies searching for links between our microbiomes and disease. Published today in Nature, the study points to new approaches for understanding how metformin works, and minimising the side effects of a drug that patients take in high doses for many years.
Heidelberg, 19 November 2015 Shaping contraction Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have identified a particular group of cells which are crucial for tissue in a fruit fly embryo to fold inwards to form the animal’s gut. They also showed for the first time that the shape in which cells are arranged determines the direction in which they contract. Published today in Developmental Cell, the findings were obtained thanks to a new technique which employs a laser as a remote control.
Heidelberg, 14 October 2015 Lighting the way A microscopy technique is poised to shine new light on biological questions: as sheets of light can scan everything from developing embryos to single cells or functioning brains, a technique called light-sheet microscopy is gaining traction. It enables scientists to observe living cells in three dimensions, for extended periods of time. Now Luxendo, a start-up company launched by EMBL and its technology transfer arm EMBLEM and funded by the EMBL Technology Fund II and Life Science Partners (LSP) will bring these cutting-edge microscopes to users across the globe.
Heidelberg, 9 October 2015 Floppy but fast Inside cells, communication between the nucleus, which harbours our precious genetic material, and the cytoplasm is mediated by the constant exchange of thousands of signaling molecules and proteins. Until now, it was unknown how this protein traffic can be so fast and yet precise enough to prevent the passage of unwanted molecules. Through a combination of computer simulations and various experimental techniques, researchers from Germany, France and the UK have solved this puzzle: A very flexible and disordered protein can bind to its receptor within billionths of a second. Their research, led by Edward Lemke (EMBL), Frauke Gräter (HITS), and Martin Blackledge (IBS) is published in “Cell” this week.
Heidelberg/Hinxton, 30 September 2015 Finding links and missing genes Missing a gene may be less problematic than you’d think. This is one of the conclusions that emerge from the most extensive catalogue of structural variations – changes in large sections of a person’s DNA sequence – to date. Created by the Korbel group in Heidelberg, the Stegle group at EMBL-EBI, the University of Washington, and collaborators, this reference catalogue shows how these large-scale genetic alterations vary in populations across the globe, and will help guide future studies of genetics, evolution and disease. The work, carried out with the 1000 Genomes Project, is published today in Nature, alongside a paper on the project’s final outcomes.
Heidelberg, 17 September 2015 Ages apart The Beck group at EMBL Heidelberg and collaborators at the Salk Institute and the University of California at Berkeley have now measured and compared just how ageing affects rats’ liver and brain cells. In a study published online today in Cell Systems, they were able to tease out general ageing processes from those that are specific to each of these organs.
Heidelberg, 20 August 2015 Life in 3D Scientists at EMBL Heidelberg and Stanford University have shed new light on certain genetic variants can ‘switch’ on or off the regulatory elements which control the expression of genes and ultimately the manifestation of an individual’s characteristics and disease predispositions. The work is published today in Cell.
Heidelberg, 16 July 2015 Iron regulators join war on pathogens Proteins responsible for controlling levels of iron in the body also play an important role in combatting infection, according to a study published in Cell Host & Microbe. Humans – along with all living organisms, including pathogens – need iron to survive: invading organisms try to highjack it from their hosts in order to thrive and multiply. Matthias Hentze and international collaborators have now discovered that proteins responsible for helping the body maintain the correct levels of iron at a cellular level are also involved in helping to prevent this theft. These proteins form a system called IRP/IRE (iron regulatory protein/iron responsive element).
Heidelberg, 16 July 2015 Oskar’s structure revealed The structure of two parts of the Oskar protein, known to be essential for the development of reproductive cells, has been solved by researchers in the Ephrussi group in collaboration with the Müller lab. This advance – published in Cell Reports – has also enabled the team to gather the first insights into how this poorly understood protein functions. The research was carried out with fruit flies, but has implications for other animals, as many organisms, including humans, also have part of the Oskar protein.
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