London, 7 December 2016 Cycle of life When Paul Nurse was a student in the 1960s, scientists knew that cells divided and make copies of themselves. Yet key questions remained a mystery: What controls these divisions? How is the copying of DNA initiated? What drives cells to divide? Gripped by these puzzles, Nurse, Chair of EMBL’s Scientific Advisory Committee and Secretary-General of EMBO, would go on to win a Nobel Prize for identifying crucial mechanisms underlying the cell division process. Yet things could have turned out very differently.
Hinxton, 5 December 2016 Omnipath: a clear view on signalling pathways By combining the power of 27 data resources, Omnipath helps researchers see biological signalling pathways with unprecedented accuracy. Developed by researchers at EMBL-EBI, RWTH Aachen University and the Earlham Institute, and published in Nature Methods, OmniPath offers a comprehensive, unified collection of literature-curated signalling pathways based on an analysis of 41 000 scientific papers.
Hamburg, 2 December 2016 Catching the chaperone in the act “I probably should have thrown those protein samples away,” says EMBL group leader Christian Löw. In 2009, one year into his postdoc, Löw was struggling to make any headway with his research into membrane proteins and set up yet another crystallisation trial in the vain hope of making that long awaited step forward. “I knew the prepared batch was contaminated with other proteins before we even started,” he says. “But we were under so much pressure to get results we went ahead anyway.” Predictably, the membrane protein he needed failed to crystallise. Yet Löw had unwittingly shone light on another group of proteins.
Heidelberg, 2 December 2016 Design for life Four decades ago, a newly qualified technical illustrator called Petra Riedinger paid a spontaneous visit to EMBL. Intrigued by the buzz around the development of a new intergovernmental research institution in Heidelberg, near her hometown, she believed she could help researchers at EMBL to visualise their science and bring data to life. She was hired on the spot, beginning a story of graphics, artwork, illustrations, posters, maps, cards and more that has spanned nearly the entire history of EMBL to date.
Heidelberg, 29 November 2016 Capturing life in perspective Shattering starfish nuclei. Cells collapsing like fabric. Protein puzzles with thousands of pieces. These moments of microscopy are commonplace in the lab, but for one team of scientists at EMBL they offer an artistic perspective on the biological sciences. “Life in Perspective,” a visualisation of 3D microscopy as lenticular images, was recently displayed at the Heidelberg city library. Going from microscope to capturing the perfect picture was not without experimentation. From collecting data to timing snapshots of chemical reactions, the scientists and co-creators of the art exhibition share some of their challenges, how they took them on and what “Life in Perspective” means for communicating science beyond the lab.
Barcelona, Utrecht, London, 24 November 2016 What would it take to regrow an arm? If you were to attempt to regrow an arm, there would be two ways to go about it. You could either coax the body into regenerating the limb, or you could produce an arm in the lab and graft it on. Of course, neither option is as straightforward as it may sound. With help from Nadia Rosenthal, former Head of EMBL’s site in Monterotondo, James Sharpe from CRG and Helmut Gehart from the Hubrecht Institute, we look at what we know, what the challenges might be, and what impact research in these fields could have.
Heidelberg, Utrecht, 24 November 2016 Chromatin cartographer EMBL alumnus Jop Kind’s research focuses on the role of DNA organisation in genome stability, cell development and disease. Kind’s work has paved the way for the development of powerful technologies to map chromatin, or balled-up DNA, in single cells, earning him this year’s John Kendrew Award.
Grenoble, 23 November 2016 Toxoplasma’s balancing act explained The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is a silent success. It infects up to 95% of people in many regions of the world, and most of them never know it, due to the parasite’s artful manipulation of its host’s immune response. Toxoplasma keeps the immune response low enough so that it can thrive, but high enough so that its human hosts generally live healthy lives and can incubate parasites. Matthew Bowler and colleagues at EMBL and the Institute for Advanced Biosciences (IAB, an INSERM - CNRS - Université Grenoble-Alpes research centre) have uncovered one of the ways it maintains this balance, in a paper published today in Structure.
Heidelberg, 23 November 2016 Thinking in 3D For Ernst Stelzer, coming back to EMBL’s Heidelberg campus “is like coming back to an old friend.” He arrived in the 1980’s as a physicist, and the innovative technologies developed by his teams have paved the way for biologists to further understand life at the microscopic level, and in unprecedented detail – from how neurons communicate with one another, to monitoring the beating heart of a fish. In recognition of his contributions, Stelzer was awarded this year’s Lennart Philipson award by the EMBL Alumni Association.
Heidelberg, 23 November 2016 New mechanism for cancer gene activation A team of EMBL scientists has identified a new molecular mechanism for cancer gene activation using publicly available data sets. The team, led by Jan Korbel, found that rearrangements in the way DNA is folded within the nucleus can activate genes that would otherwise be silent, causing cancer.