Heidelberg, 14 July 2016 How new HIV drugs lock virus in immaturity A new type of HIV drug currently being tested works in an unusual way, scientists in the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit, a collaboration between EMBL and Heidelberg University Hospital, have found. Led by John Briggs at EMBL and Hans-Georg Kräusslich at Heidelberg University Hospital, they also discovered that when the virus became resistant to early versions of these drugs, it did not do so by blocking or preventing their effects, but rather by circumventing them. The study, published online in Science, presents the most detailed view yet of part of the immature form of HIV.
Hinxton, 7 July 2016 Anatomy of a decision: mapping early development In the first genome-scale experiment of its kind, researchers have gained new insights into how a mouse embryo first begins to transform from a ball of unfocussed cells into a small, structured entity. Published in Nature, the single-cell genomics study was led by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust–MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. Thanks to advances in single-cell sequencing, the team was able to analyse over 1000 individual cells of gastrulating mouse embryos. The result is an atlas of gene expression during very early, healthy mammalian development.
Heidelberg, 30 June 2016 Welcome: Alba Diz-Muñoz The Diz-Muñoz group plans to explore how mechanical properties affect the movement of immune cells or cells in a zebrafish embryo. Working at the interface between physics and biology, they will investigate how cell behaviour and signalling cascades inside the cell are influenced by factors like the forces the cell is subjected to, or the ones it generates. Diz-Muñoz reveals the tool that drove her into this field, who she would like to collaborate with, and how she views her new role. "I want to help my people find and follow their own paths," she says.
Heidelberg, 14 June 2016 How cells bag their rubbish The buildup of protein deposits in cells is a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “A protein accumulates in neurons, neurons die, and patients gradually lose brain functions,” says Carsten Sachse from EMBL. “If the process by which the cell removes those proteins can be enhanced, then you might be able to prevent that disease progression.” Before scientists can give the cell’s rubbish collectors a boost, they have to understand how the system works. In a paper recently published in EMBO Reports, Sachse and his lab drew on expertise from colleagues throughout EMBL to do just that.
Grenoble, 7 June 2016 Partnership for Structural Biology: strength in diversity The Partnership for Structural Biology (PSB) brings together researchers working at various institutes based at the European Photon and Neutron (EPN) science campus in Grenoble. Through the PSB, researchers based at EMBL, ILL, ESRF, and the Institut de Biologie structural (IBS) can collaborate with and access resources and expertise from all institutes. The PSB agreement was renewed for five more years in February 2016, strengthening the position of EMBL and the other members of the Grenoble-based partnership as leaders in protein studies.
Heidelberg, 20 May 2016 Making cells move towards the light An airplane leaving a lit-up runway is not the image you’d expect to see on the cover of a scientific journal, but there it is on this month’s issue of Cell Chemical Biology. Inspired by a study from Carsten Schultz’s lab, the image draws on the idea of using light to direct movement. The scientists developed a new way to switch on a lipid called LPA, which many cells – including cancer cells – are known to move towards. They manipulated this molecule so that it only becomes active when they shine a light on it. With this new method, researchers can make cells move towards a particular place, by flipping a switch.
Heidelberg, 17 May 2016 Unexpected link in protein production I shared a room at a conference in Baeza, Spain, in November 2013 with Zoltan Villanyi from the University of Geneva. As we sat in the same talks, we quickly found that we had the same questions for speakers, and discovered that we’d been given spots next to each other during the poster presentation – that’s where we got really interested in each other’s work. We stayed in touch, and began to work together the following month, exchanging a few RNA samples for sequencing. From there, the collaboration bloomed. In the end, what we found – and recently published in Cell Reports – was quite surprising.
Hamburg, 10 May 2016 Enzyme with a dual-purpose loop A closer look at the 3D molecular structure of Death Associated Protein Kinases (DAPK) reveals an unexpected dual-purpose loop in the folded string of amino acids. Work by researchers in the Wilmann’s group at EMBL Hamburg, published in Structure, suggests that the small loop is crucial for dimer formation and calmodulin binding. “What started as a small side project, unearthed a complex and important signaling pathway within this group of kinases,” says Matthias Wilmanns, “It goes to show, you can’t always plan science!”
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.