Using bone marrow precursor cells instead of transplantation
Bone is the second most commonly transplanted tissue after blood, with about two million bone transplants performed worldwide each year – but often with only moderate therapeutic success. Cell-based therapies could provide an alternative approach to transplantation. Together with colleagues from Paracelsus Medical Private University (PMU) Salzburg, researchers at the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) have now demonstrated that human progenitor cells can regenerate large bone defects and form new mineralized tissue. The researchers have published the findings from their work in the journal Science Translational Medicine*.
Researchers discover a way to fight the aging process and cancer development
Damage in the human genome can be repaired. But this works better in germ cells, sperm and eggs, than in normal body cells. Responsible for this is the DREAM protein complex, which prevents the activation of all available repair mechanisms. A research team at the University of Cologne has now shown that normal body cells can also be repaired better once this complex has been deactivated. In the long run, the scientists hope to develop better therapies to prevent cancer and aging-associated diseases. They describe their results in ‘Nature Structural & Molecular Biology’
Competition between brain hemispheres during sleep
Human beings are bilaterally symmetrical. As such, our brains are made of two halves called hemispheres, that communicate with each other with specialized fiber tracts running across the midline. While each hemisphere tends to deal with the senses (vision, hearing, touch) and motor control of the opposite side of the body, we are generally not aware of this partitioning of function, thanks to constant inter-hemispheric communication. In humans, the two hemispheres are also specialized for certain functions: language areas, for example, are typically in the left hemisphere.
Widespread species gaining ground
Human activities are accelerating biodiversity change and promoting a rapid turnover in species composition. A team of researchers has now shown that more widespread species tend to benefit from anthropogenic changes and increase the number of sites they occupy, whereas more narrowly distributed species decrease. Their results, which were published in Nature Communications, are based on an extensive dataset of over 200 studies and provide evidence that habitat protection can mitigate some effects of biodiversity change and reduce the systematic decrease of small-ranged species.
Where the HI-Virus sleeps in the brain
The human immunodeficiency virus HIV-1 is able to infect various tissues in humans. Once inside the cells, the virus integrates its genome into the cellular genome and establishes persistent infections. The role of the structure and organisation of the host genome in HIV-1 infection is not well understood. Using a cell culture model based on brain immune microglia cells, an international research team led by scientists from Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) now defined the insertion patterns of HIV-1 in the genome of microglia cells.
New potential therapeutic approach for HER2-positive breast cancer discovered
Resistance to HER2-targeted therapies can be a problem when treating patients with HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer. Therefore, the identification of new therapies for this patient group is important. Researchers at the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environments and Human Factors in Dortmund (IfADo) have already shown that the enzyme EDI3 is associated with changes in the metabolism of cancer cells. Their most recent results reveal that inhibiting EDI3 may be a new therapeutic target in patients with therapy-resistant ER-HER2+ breast cancer.
Fungal spores hijack lung cells
The pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus escapes elimination from surface cells of the human lung by binding to a human protein. In doing so, it is able to nest in so called phagosomes, confined areas in the lung cells, and thus prevents cell processes that would kill the fungus from being set in motion. Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (Leibniz-HKI) have thus discovered a possible new target against the fungal infection.
Insights into the evolution of the sense of fairness
A sense of fairness has long been considered purely human – but animals also react with frustration when they are treated unequally by a person. In a study with long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), researchers at the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research (DPZ) have now confirmed an alternative explanatory approach. A combination of social disappointment with the human experimenter and some degree of food competition best explains their behavior in an ‚inequity aversion‘ experiment.
The fascinating microbiome: “We are planet Earth for micro-organisms”
When you hear the word microbiome, the chances are you will think of the gut. But the microbiome is so much more, namely the total of all microorganisms living on and in the human body. Skin, lungs or the digestive system, the mouth, throat, nose or the genital tract: they are all home to tiny living organisms such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. When the balance is correct, they are beneficial to human health. But what does the ideal microbiome look like? And what influence do quintillions of invisible organisms have on human health and disease?
Passerine bird takes advantage of human settlements
Daurian redstarts move their nesting sites closer to or even inside human settlements when cuckoos are around. In doing so, they actively protect their nest against brood parasitism, as cuckoos avoid human settlements. An international team of scientists showed both observational and experimental evidence for this anti-parasitism strategy in a population of Daurian redstarts in northeastern China. Their research illustrates how the breeding behavior of two interacting bird species co-evolves. It also gives us a glimpse on how urbanization can affect interspecific interactions.
A win-win for cell communities: Cells that cooperate live longer
When cells exchange metabolic products with other cells, they live longer. This new finding comes from a research team at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, which made the discovery in a study using yeast cells. The fact that these exchanges directly impact cell lifespans could play a significant role in future research into human aging processes and age-related diseases. The study appears in the latest issue of Cell*.
Novel spatial-omics technology enables investigation of diseases at their early stages
How can you trace a single diseased cell in an intact brain or a human heart? The search resembles looking for a needle in a haystack. The teams of Ali Ertürk at Helmholtz Munich and LMU Munich and Matthias Mann at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich have now developed a new technology named DISCO-MS that solves the problem. DISCO-MS uses robotics technology to obtain proteomics data from ‘sick’ cells precisely identified early in the disease.
New biomarkers for coffee consumption
In search of new biomarkers for nutrition and health studies, a research team from the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB) has identified and structurally characterized three metabolites that could be considered as specific markers for individual coffee consumption. These are degradation products of a group of substances that are formed in large quantities during coffee roasting but are otherwise rarely found in other foods. This and the fact that the potential biomarkers can be detected in very small amounts of urine make them interesting for future human studies.
More flexible than we thought: Worms give us new insights into the evolution and diversification of TGF-ß signaling
The TGF-ß cellular signaling network, essential to various functions in all metazoans and involved in many severe human pathologies like autoimmune diseases and cancer, is more flexible than previously thought. Researchers at the MPI for Neurobiology of Behavior and the MPI for Biology discovered an unknown genetic variability in this signaling pathway amongst different nematode species resulting in morphological and behavioral variations. This fresh view on the TGF-ß machinery, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, is important for understanding the evolution of signaling pathways, their adaptability to acquire novel functions and for new strategies to control parasitic nematodes.
Measuring Organ Development
Researchers from Dresden and Vienna reveal link between connectivity of three-dimensional structures in tissues and the emergence of their architecture to help scientists engineer self-organising tissues that mimic human organs.
Speaking the same language: How Artificial Neurons Mimic Biological Neurons
Neurons fire electrical impulses, and synapses ensure their transmission. These principles, which operate in the human brain, can now also be used as building blocks in artificially produced circuits to create systems that are capable of learning. However, so-called „neuromorphic electronics“ also offer the potential to create an interface between the artificial and biological domains. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now come a step closer to this goal by creating artificial neurons that can operate directly and in real-time in a biological environment.
HUSHing repetitive-like elements contributes to normal brain development and function
The gene-silencing complex HUSH might be involved in complex disorders affecting the brain and neurons. However, its mechanism of action remains unclear. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) now uncover the in vivo targets and physiological functions of a component of the HUSH gene-silencing complex and one of its associated proteins. The work, conducted in laboratory mouse models and human brain organoids, links the HUSH complex to normal brain development, neuronal individuality and connectivity, as well as mouse behavior. The findings are published in Science Advances.
Research at Jacobs University: Coffee could offer protection from catching COVID-19
Professor Nikolai Kuhnert and his team from Jacobs University were able to show that a compound in coffee inhibits the interaction between the spike protein of the coronavirus and the ACE-2 Receptor of the human cell. This could potentially prevent infections.
Born to survive – How human neurons manage to live a century
Researchers at the Hector Institute for Translational Brain Research (HITBR) at the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) investigate molecular networks resulting in human neuronal longevity.
Prions induce toxic Huntingtin oligomers
Martinsried. Researchers discovered that prions, which are naturally occurring protein clumps in yeast, are involved in the toxicity of the disease-related protein Huntingtin. They found that the actual toxic form of the Huntingtin protein is not large aggregates, as previously suspected, but smaller intermediates, so-called oligomers. Those intermediates arise through specific interactions with prions. The researchers now suspect similar relationships in human disease. The study was published in the journal Molecular Cell and is an achievement of the team led by Ulrich Hartl at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB).
Landscape of molecular contacts: How the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 communicates with human cells
What exactly are the molecular interactions between the virus causing COVID-19 and its human host? How might our genetic differences cause different disease courses? And how do still-emerging virus variants differ in their host-virus interactions? To get to the bottom of these questions, an international team of researchers has generated a systematic map of molecular contacts between the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its human host.
New insights into tumour biology: Cancer cells adopt hitherto unknown state to facilitate metastasis
The ancient Egyptians, as described in the Ebers Papyrus, already knew that palpation –feeling for hardened lumps – can help diagnose breast cancer. Palpation is still an important element in early screening for breast cancer. On the other hand, measurements on individual cancer cells show that they are softer than the healthy epithelial cells from which they stem, which probably makes them better able to metastasise in dense human tissue. An international collaborative project led by the Soft Matter Physics Division at Leipzig University got to the bottom of this apparent paradox and has now published its findings in the renowned journal Nature Physics.
Fish to help in search for MS drugs
The zebrafish serves as a model organism for researchers around the world: it can be used to study important physiological processes that also take place in a similar form in the human body. It is therefore routinely used in the search for possible active substances against diseases. Researchers at the University of Bonn have now described an innovative way to do this. In this process, the larvae fish are made a bit more „human-like“. This humanization could make the search for active pharmaceutical substances much more efficient. The results of the pilot study have been published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology.
Moss repair team also works in humans
If everything is to run smoothly in living cells, the genetic information must be correct. But unfortunately, errors in the DNA accumulate over time due to mutations. Land plants have developed a peculiar correction mode: they do not directly improve the errors in the genome, but rather elaborately in each individual transcript. Researchers at the University of Bonn have transplanted this correction machinery from the moss Physcomitrium patens into human cells. Surprisingly, the corrector started working there too, but according to its own rules. The results have now been published in the journal „Nucleic Acids Research“.
Gut microbes and humans on a joint evolutionary journey
The human gut microbiome is composed of thousands of different bacteria and archaea that vary widely between populations and individuals. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen have now discovered gut microbes that share a parallel evolutionary history with their human hosts: the microorganisms co-evolved in the human gut environment over hundreds of thousands of years. In addition, some microbes exhibit genomic and functional features making them dependent on their host. Now published in Science, the researchers present the results of their study conducted with data from 1225 individuals out of Africa, Asia and Europe.