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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.
Heidelberg, 10 July 2015 Cell machinery wears complex coat John Briggs and Svetlana Dodonova, in collaboration with Felix Wieland at the University of Heidelberg, have produced detailed images of the intricate protein-coats that surround trafficking vesicles – the “transport pods” that move material around within biological cells. The study, published today in Science, provides a new understanding of the complex machines that make up the cells’ logistics network.
Grenoble, 9 July 2015 DNA protection, inch by inch DNA within reproductive cells is protected through a clever system of find and destroy: new research published in Cell Reports ifts the veil on how this is done. A European team of scientists – including Radha Raman Pandey and David Homolka from the Pillai lab at EMBL Grenoble – has discovered how the cells produce tiny pieces of RNA, called piRNA, that identify and silence ‘jumping genes’ or transposons: genes that are able to change their position within the genome and therefore alter or disrupt the genetic code.
Heidelberg, 18 June 2015 EMBL Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle Ori Avinoam, working across the Briggs and Kaksonen groups, has helped solve a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades – how does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function? Opinion was split between two different models, but a new paper published in Science demonstrates that the surface area of the clathrin coat does not change during endocytosis, only its curvature changes as it draws the cell membrane inwards.
Heidelberg, 15 June 2015 Dancing with the cells The same kind of contraction that fires our muscles also controls a key stage of mammalian embryo development, according to a new study published in Nature Cell Biology. The research, conducted at EMBL Heidelberg, measured and mapped how cells in very early stage embryos bond tightly together. The scientists also discovered a cellular behaviour that hadn’t been observed before: cells in the embryo ‘dance’, each one making the same rhythmic movement.
Heidelberg, 4 June 2015 Decaying RNA molecules tell a story Once messenger RNA (mRNA) has done its job – conveying the information to produce the proteins necessary for a cell to function – it is no longer required and is degraded. Scientists have long thought that the decay started after translation was complete and that decaying RNA molecules provided little biological information. Now a team from EMBL Heidelberg and Stanford University led by Lars Steinmetz has turned this on its head. The researchers have shown that one end of the mRNA begins to decay while the other is still serving as a template for protein production. Thus, studying the decaying mRNA also provides a snapshot of how proteins are produced.
Heidelberg, 21 May 2015 Planktonic world: the new frontier On May 22, in a special issue of Science, an international, interdisciplinary, team of scientists maps the biodiversity of a wide range of planktonic organisms, exploring their interactions - mainly parasitic, and how they impact and are affected by their environment, primarily the temperature. Based on a portion of the 35000 samples collected from all the world’s oceans during the 2009-2013 expedition on board the schooner TARA, this data provides the scientific community with unprecedented resources, including a catalogue of several million new genes, that will transform how we study the oceans and assess climate change.
Heidelberg, 21 May 2015 A nucleus can sense the space inside the cell Like the stone in a fruit, nucleus size scales with cell size – in healthy cells at least – so that the nucleus can’t take up the whole space inside the cell. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms behind that controlled growth have never been fully understood. Scientists at EMBL Heidelberg demonstrate today in Developmental Cell that the space surrounding a growing nucleus – not the overall volume of the cell – is also a crucial factor in regulating how fast the nucleus grows. They also show that the motor protein dynein and so called ‘microtubules’ which are part of the cytoskeleton are involved in this process.
Grenoble, 21 May 2015 It runs in the family Researchers in EMBL Grenoble unveil the first detailed 3D-structure of the replication machinery – polymerase – of the La Crosse orthobunyavirus (LACV), a virus which can cause human encephalitis. LACV is in the same broad group of viruses as influenza and the findings show that the LACV polymerase has striking similarities to influenza virus polymerase whose atomic structure was previously determined by the same team. The findings open up the possibility of quicker routes to developing treatments for the diseases these viruses cause.
Heidelberg, 20 April 2015 How cells have got molecules surrounded Ground-breaking microscopy techniques have enabled scientists at EMBL Heidelberg to shed new light on how cells perform endocytosis – a function that is key to many cellular processes, such as ingesting nutrients and cell-signalling. The process of endocytosis generates bubble-like membrane vesicles that surround the molecules to be ingested and move them from the cell surface into the cell. In this study, published in Developmental Cell, a cross-disciplinary team from five research groups at EMBL and the European XFEL demonstrates the significance of a particular type of proteins, called clathrin adaptor proteins, to the process.
Heidelberg, 16 March 2015 New technique to chart protein networks in living cells A new approach for studying the behaviour of proteins in living cells has been developed by an interdisciplinary team of biologists and physicists in the Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, the Ellenberg Laboratory and the Advanced Light Microscopy Facility at EMBL Heidelberg. Described in a new study, published today in Nature Biotechnology, the approach allows scientists for the first time to follow the protein networks that drive a biological process in real time.
Hinxton, 11 March 2015 Ewan Birney and Rolf Apweiler appointed Joint Directors of EMBL-EBI Dr Ewan Birney and Dr Rolf Apweiler have been appointed Joint Directors of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory – European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) as Professor Dame Janet Thornton steps down after 14 years in post. They will assume their new roles with effect from 1 July 2015. Drs Birney and Apweiler have both enjoyed long and distinguished careers at EMBL-EBI, and were appointed Joint Associate Directors in 2012. As Joint Directors, they will share responsibility for all aspects of EMBL-EBI, including services, research, training, industry engagement and European coordination. Dr Birney and Professor Thornton will continue to lead their respective research groups.
Heidelberg, 19 February 2015 Better together A paper published today in the journal PLoS Pathogens by scientists at EMBL Hamburg and collaborators demonstrates the power of bringing together specialists in different areas to tackle complex problems. By joining forces, the multidisciplinary team uncovered a surprise about the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.
Heidelberg, 6 February 2015 The battle for iron The search for therapies against anaemia of chronic disease (ACD) could take on new directions thanks to a study published today in Blood. In it, scientists in the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit, a joint venture of EMBL and Heidelberg University Clinic, have found a hitherto unknown way through which mice starve pathogens of iron.
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