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Barcelona, 19 December 2018 Growing bio-inspired shapes with hundreds of tiny robots Hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes – without an underlying master plan, purely based on local communication and movement. To achieve this, researchers from EMBL Barcelona, CRG and Bristol Robotics Laboratory introduced the biological principles of self-organisation to swarm robotics. Science Robotics publishes the results on 19 December.
Rome, 17 December 2018 Using light to stop itch Itch is easily one of the most annoying sensations. For chronic skin diseases like eczema, it’s a major symptom. Although it gives temporary relief, scratching only makes things worse because it can cause skin damage, additional inflammation and even more itch. Paul Heppenstall, Linda Nocchi, and colleagues from EMBL Rome have now found a way to stop itch with light in mice. Their results were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Hinxton, 26 November 2018 Algorithm identifies gene–environment relationships The research article, published in the journal Nature Genetics, produced an algorithm and a bioinformatics method that can be applied to large cohorts of human genome and lifestyle data to identify the impact environmental factors (such as diet, physical activity or living conditions) have on genotype–phenotype relationships. Applying this method allows scientists to identify areas of the genome that affect human traits in different ways, depending on lifestyle or other environmental factors.
Heidelberg, 15 November 2018 Controlling organ growth with light In optogenetics, researchers use light to control protein activity. This technique allows them to alter the shape of embryonic tissue and to inhibit the development of abnormalities. Now, scientists in EMBL’s De Renzis group have enhanced the technique to stop organ-shaping processes in fruit fly embryos. Their results, published in The EMBO Journal, allow control over a crucial step in embryonic development.
Heidelberg, 24 October 2018 More effective insulin thanks to first 3D image An international collaboration including EMBL scientists Felix Weis and Christoph Müller has revealed how to make therapeutic insulins more effective than they currently are, by publishing the first definitive 3D image of how insulin successfully binds to its receptor. The findings - published in Nature Communications on 24 October - will help to improve treatments for diabetes, a disease that impacts the lives of millions of people worldwide.
Heidelberg, 1 October 2018 Ageing is visible in the way cells use glucose A research team from EMBL and Heidelberg University has studied the molecular features of ageing in human blood stem cells. The most prominent finding is that the sugar metabolism of stem cells increases with age – a change similar to that observed in cancer cells. Their results, published in Nature Communications on 1 October 2018, serve as an important reference for further studies on the molecular mechanisms of ageing in humans.
Heidelberg, 10 September 2018 First interactive model of human cell division Mitosis – how one cell divides and becomes two – is one of the fundamental processes of life. Researchers at EMBL's Ellenberg group have now produced the first interactive map of proteins that make our cells divide, allowing users to track exactly where and in which groups the proteins drive the division process forward. This first dynamic protein atlas of human cell division is published in Nature today.
General, 5 September 2018 €17 million fund to power European detection and imaging innovation pipeline The ATTRACT initiative will commit €17 million to funding 170 breakthrough detection and imaging ideas with market potential to help enable the creation of products, services, companies and jobs based on these technologies. The ATTRACT seed fund is open to researchers and entrepreneurs from organisations all over Europe. The call for proposals is already open and will collect breakthrough ideas until the 31st of October 2018.
Hinxton, 29 August 2018 PhenoMeNal: an online portal for metabolomics An international collaboration between EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and 13 other partners has made large-scale metabolomics analyses easier with the launch of PhenoMeNal. This online portal allows researchers and clinicians to analyse large metabolomics datasets. For example, researchers can search for patterns in a patient’s data, and use the findings to improve the detection of disease and to help optimise treatment.
Heidelberg, 1 August 2018 Understanding soil through its microbiome Soil is full of life, essential for nutrient cycling and carbon storage. To better understand how it functions, an international research team led by Peer Bork and Falk Hildebrand at EMBL and the University of Tartu (Estonia) conducted the first global study of bacteria and fungi in soil. Their results show that bacteria and fungi are in constant competition for nutrients and produce an arsenal of antibiotics to gain an advantage over one another. Nature publishes the results on 1 August 2018.
Heidelberg, 12 July 2018 Parental chromosomes kept apart during embryo’s first division It was long thought that during an embryo’s first cell division, one spindle is responsible for segregating the embryo’s chromosomes into two cells. EMBL scientists from the Ellenberg group now show that there are actually two spindles, one for each set of parental chromosomes, meaning that the genetic information from each parent is kept apart throughout the first division. Science publishes the results – bound to change biology textbooks – on 12 July 2018.
Heidelberg, 6 July 2018 Melting bacteria to decipher antibiotic resistance With antibiotic resistance spreading worldwide, there is a strong need for new technologies to study bacteria. EMBL researchers from the Savitski and Typas groups have adapted an existing technique to study the melting behaviour of proteins so that it can be used for the study of bacteria. Molecular Systems Biology published their results – allowing researchers worldwide to start using the technique – on July 6.
Heidelberg, 4 July 2018 Combining antibiotics changes their effectiveness The effectiveness of antibiotics can be altered by combining them with each other, non-antibiotic drugs or even with food additives. Depending on the bacterial species, some combinations stop antibiotics from working to their full potential whilst others begin to defeat antibiotic resistance, report EMBL researchers from the Typas group - and collaborators - in Nature on July 4.
Grenoble, 26 June 2018 Flu’s response to new drug explored The new influenza drug Xofluza was approved for clinical use in Japan in February 2018. Scientists from the Cusack group at EMBL Grenoble have now investigated the drug’s mode of action in detail, and uncovered possible mechanisms by which viral resistance to it could emerge. Scientific Reports published the results of this collaboration between scientists from EMBL and Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi on 25 June.
Heidelberg, 22 June 2018 Miniature testing of drug pairs on tumour biopsies Combinations of cancer drugs can be quickly and cheaply tested on tumour cells using a novel device developed by EMBL scientists from the Merten group. The research, reported in Nature Communications on June 22, marks the latest advancement in the field of personalised medicine.
Barcelona, 20 June 2018 New theory deepens understanding of Turing patterns A team of researchers at EMBL Barcelona's Sharpe group have expanded Alan Turing’s seminal theory on how patterns are created in biological systems. This work, published 20 June in Physical Review X, may answer whether nature’s patterns are governed by Turing’s mathematical model and could have applications in tissue engineering.
Hinxton, 19 June 2018 Towards personalised medicine: one type of data is not enough EMBL researchers have designed a computational method to jointly analyse multiple types of molecular data from patients in order to identify molecular signatures that distinguish individuals. The method is called Multi-Omics Factor Analysis (MOFA), and was published in Molecular Systems Biology. MOFA could be particularly useful for understanding cancer development, improving diagnosis and suggesting new directions for personalised treatment.
Heidelberg, 18 June 2018 Constructing new tissue shapes with light Constructing biological tissues, such as skin, muscle, or bone, in customized shapes is now one step closer. Emiliano Izquierdo, Theresa Quinkler, and Stefano De Renzis - all researchers at EMBL - have succeeded in guiding the folding and thus shape of tissues with optogenetics: a technique to control protein activity with light. Nature Communications publishes their results, with implications for regenerative medicine, on 18 June.
Hinxton, 30 May 2018 Of mice and gorillas: how wild species could benefit from mouse genetic data A new study by researchers from EMBL-EBI and partner institutions compared mouse genetic data with data from gorillas and other wild mammals to reveal new insights into mammalian health and disease. The journal Conservation Genetics published the results on May 19.
Heidelberg, 19 April 2018 Dog microbiome closer to humans' than expected Dog and human gut microbiomes have more similar genes and responses to diet than previously thought, according to a study by EMBL scientist Luis Pedro Coelho and colleagues from the Bork group, published in Microbiome on April 19.
Rome, 26 March 2018 Captured on film for the first time: microglia nibbling on brain synapses Laetitia Weinhard, Cornelius Gross, and colleagues from EMBL Rome and the Schwab team have captured microglia nibbling on brain synapses. Their findings show that the special glial cells help synapses grow and rearrange, demonstrating the essential role of microglia in brain development. Nature Communications publishes the results on March 26.
Heidelberg, 22 March 2018 LifeTime - a visionary proposal for an EU Flagship Reliably predicting the onset and trajectory of a disease might seem like a distant dream. But a European consortium is aiming to achieve exactly this using a set of emerging technologies with the analysis of single cells at their core. Leading scientists - amongst whom several from EMBL - have now submitted the proposal for a FET Flagship called LifeTime.
Heidelberg, 19 March 2018 Commonly used drugs affect our gut bacteria One in four drugs with human targets inhibit the growth of bacteria in the human gut. These drugs cause antibiotic-like side-effects and may promote antibiotic resistance, EMBL researchers from the Bork, Patil, Typas, and Zeller groups report in Nature on March 19.
Heidelberg, 19 March 2018 Molecular cuisine for gut bacteria Scientific recipes to successfully grow and study gut bacteria in the lab: that’s what EMBL scientists from the Bork, Patil, and Typas groups are publishing in Nature Microbiology on March 19. They report on the nutritional preferences and growth characteristics of 96 diverse gut bacterial strains. Their results will help scientists worldwide advance our understanding of the gut microbiome.
Heidelberg, 15 March 2018 Potential new way to limit antibiotic resistance spreading One of the biggest current threats to global health is the rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria, caused by the spreading of antibiotic resistance amongst them. In an attempt to help fight this threat, EMBL researchers Anna Rubio-Cosials, Orsolya Barabas, and colleagues have unraveled the molecular basis of a major antibiotic resistance transfer mechanism. They also developed molecules and a proof-of-principle for blocking this transfer. Cell publishes their results on March 15.
Heidelberg, 14 March 2018 Chromatin usage in individual cells reveals developmental trajectories Both cell type and developmental stage can be deduced from chromatin accessibility measurements in thousands of single cells, researchers from the Furlong group at EMBL and the University of Washington show. They used this approach to uncover how cells in developing embryos regulate their identity as they decide what kind of cell to become. Nature publishes the results on March 14.
Heidelberg, 7 March 2018 Accelerating antibody discovery New EMBL spinoff company Velabs Therapeutics strives to speed up the discovery of new and better therapeutic antibodies, by making a new microfluidics platform - developed by EMBL group leader Christoph Merten - available to the global antibody research community.
Heidelberg, 22 February 2018 Synchronised waves control embryonic patterning During an embryo’s journey from a single cell to a complex organism, countless patterning processes make sure that the right cells develop in exactly the right location and at the right time. Cells activate specific genes in a rhythmic manner during this early development, resulting in waves of activation sweeping through the embryo. Scientists from the Aulehla and Merten labs at EMBL now show that the rhythm between two specific sets of waves – controlled by the Wnt and Notch pathways – enables the formation of new segments. The journal Cell published their results on February 22.
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