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Hamburg, 18 February 2019 Suicide system in tuberculosis bacteria might hold key to treatment Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide. In 2017, 10 million people around the world fell ill with TB and 1.3 million died. The genome of the bacterium that causes TB holds a special toxin-antitoxin system with spectacular action: once the toxin is activated, all bacterial cells die, stopping the disease. An international research team co-led by the Wilmanns group at EMBL Hamburg investigated this promising feature for therapeutic targets. They now share the first high-resolution details of the system in Molecular Cell.
Hinxton, 11 February 2019 Almost 2000 unknown bacteria discovered in the human gut Researchers at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute and the Wellcome Sanger Institute have identified almost 2000 bacterial species living in the human gut. These species are yet to be cultured in the lab. The team used a range of computational methods to analyse samples from individuals worldwide. The results, published in the journal Nature, highlight that although researchers are possibly getting closer to creating a comprehensive list of the commonly found microbes in the North American and European gut, there is a significant lack of data from other regions of the world.
Hinxton, 4 February 2019 The web meets genomics: a DNA search engine for microbes Researchers at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have combined their knowledge of bacterial genetics and web search algorithms to build a DNA search engine for microbial data. The search engine, described in a paper published in Nature Biotechnology, could enable researchers and public health agencies to use genome sequencing data to monitor the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. By making this vast amount of data discoverable, the search engine could also allow researchers to learn more about bacteria and viruses.
Hinxton, 24 January 2019 Facilitating transcontinental human data exchange Registered researchers will be able to analyse population-scale genomic and biomolecular data with the launch of the Common Infrastructure for National Cohorts in Europe, Canada and Africa (CINECA). The international project is led by EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). Data from 1.4 million individuals will be accessible to approved researchers around the world through CINECA’s federated cloud-based network.
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.
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