Hinxton, 2 May 2016 Breast cancer study: towards personalised treatment The largest-ever study to sequence the whole genomes of breast cancers has uncovered five new genes associated with the disease and 13 new mutational signatures that influence tumour development. Published in Nature and Nature Communications, two studies from the Wellcome Genome Campus pinpoint where genetic variations in breast cancers occur. The findings provide insights into the causes of breast tumours and demonstrate that breast-cancer genomes are highly individual.
Heidelberg, 28 April 2016 Poo transplants better understood For the first time, scientists studying stool transplants have been able to track which strains of bacteria from a donor take hold in a patient’s gut after a transplant. The team led by the Bork group found that compatibility between donor and patient likely plays a bigger role in these transplants than previously thought. The study, published in Science, could help make stool transplants a valid treatment option for more conditions than they are currently applied to.
Heidelberg, 14 April 2016 EMBL scientists reveal structure of nuclear pore’s inner ring It was a 3D puzzle with over 1000 pieces, with only a rather fuzzy outline as a guide. But scientists in the Beck group at EMBL have now put enough pieces in place to see the big picture. In a study published today in Science, they present their latest findings, bringing the nuclear pore complex into focus.
Monterotondo, 7 April 2016 Welcome: Hiroki Asari New group leader Hiroki Asari seeks to unpick connections between sight and mind, answering questions such as why a cookie looks different depending on how hungry you are. The Asari group will be studying how the visual system is influenced by state of body and mind. They will present the same set of visual stimuli to mice in different situations. By combining such experiments with computer modelling, they aim to reconstruct the circuitry of neurons in the eye and the brain, and the connections between them. “Our visual system works way better than the state-of-the-art computer systems – it’s just amazing!” he says.
Heidelberg, 31 March 2016 Designing gene therapy Scientists in the Barabas group at EMBL have increased the efficiency of a genome-engineering tool called Sleeping Beauty, which is showing promise in clinical trials for leukaemia and lymphoma immunotherapies. They made the improvement by determining the 3-dimensional structure of the molecule’s active domain, and using that information to design better versions of this tool. In a study published in Nature Communications, they reveal structural information that they hope will ultimately result in better patient outcomes.
Hinxton, 24 March 2016 Foetus, or placenta? When exactly does an embryonic cell decide whether it will become part of the foetus, or part of the placenta? Scientists at the University of Cambridge and in the Marioni group at EMBL-EBI shed light on this important question by studying the development of mice embryos only four cells in size. The findings, published in Cell, show subtle differences between seemingly identical cells at a very early stage of development, and have implications for the understanding of mammalian development.
Hamburg, 24 March 2016 Better tools for exploring TB protein structures Information about the 3D structure of Mtb proteins involved in the infection process of tuberculosis can provide crucial clues for designing new drugs. However, Mtb proteins are not easy subjects for structural biology studies, and as a result relatively few have been characterised in detail. The need for improved methodology is driving efforts by the Wilmanns’ group at EMBL in Hamburg, who have optimised methods for producing the proteins in the laboratory, and now hope to share this knowledge with other structural biologists.
Hinxton, 21 March 2016 Supporting the bioimaging revolution As the bioimaging revolution gives scientists ever-more detailed views on the inner workings of cells, there is growing demand for public infrastructure to store, share and link the massive datasets produced using high-resolution imaging techniques. Complementing large-scale, EMBL-led, intergovernmental initiatives such as Euro-BioImaging, EMBL-EBI has expanded its EMPIAR data service to accommodate new high-resolution imaging modalities such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). A correspondence published in Nature Methods today introduces the resource and gives a glimpse of future developments.
Heidelberg, 21 March 2016 Mothers and daughters EMBL scientists have observed how an egg cell gets rid of its centrioles – structures that play a crucial role in cell division – to ensure the proper development of the embryo. The study, published today in Journal of Cell Biology, is the first time the whole process has been seen in its entirety, in real time. Joana Pinto, a PhD student in the Lénárt lab, developed fluorescent tags for mother and daughter centrioles in a starfish egg cell and recorded the entire process of eliminating them, revealing how the cell handles mature ‘mother’ centrioles and immature ‘daughter’ centrioles differently.
Heidelberg, 21 March 2016 Finding the way with X-Ray Researchers in the Schwab group and collaborators have developed a new method to help navigate between the different scales of fluorescence and electron microscopy. Fluorescence microscopy allows researchers to monitor large samples, but to show the very fine details of cells scientists must turn to other methods such as electron microscopy. “Finding at the electron microscope something that you spotted under the fluorescence microscope is a tedious and time-consuming task,” says Schwab. The new technique uses microscopic X-ray computed tomography to identify landmarks such as blood vessels when moving from fluorescence to electron microscopy.