When is genome sequencing advisable? Human geneticists in Leipzig conduct clinical reference study

Scientists from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Leipzig Medical Center have shown in two independent patient cohorts when a genome sequencing is beneficial in the diagnosis of genetic diseases. The jointly published study provides valuable insights for diagnostic practice based on a broad dataset from research and clinical applications. The researchers have presented their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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New Findings on How Initial SARS-CoV-2 Cell-Entry Route Influences Infection Outcomes

An international research team has gained new insights into the way SARS-CoV-2 enters cells and its downstream consequences. As an aid to the ACE2 surface protein, the TMPRSS2 serine protease plays an important role in enhancing cell infection: it boosts the resulting immune response, increases cell death, and drives virus evolution. In addition to the human version, TMPRSS2 proteins from diverse mammal species can also enhance infection. These findings may contribute to the development of future treatments and prevention strategies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) reports on these results in its edition from 4 June 2024.

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Live long, stay healthy: Study reveals important health markers

Bremen – In a recent study, the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS has made significant progress in identifying health markers that are crucial for a long and healthy life. Led by Prof. Dr. Krasimira Aleksandrova and in close collaboration with the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE), the research provides valuable insights for healthy aging.

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New study identifies mechanism of immune evasion of SARS-CoV-2 and variants

A new study has revealed important insights into how SARS-CoV-2 and its variants escape the immune system. The findings pave the way for new therapeutic approaches against COVID-19. The research of the international team of scientists from the USA, Brazil and Germany focused on the interactions between the virus and the human innate immune system. The study was led by a team from the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, USA. The results were published in the renowned journal „Cell“ on May 9, 2024.

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First model of the brain’s information highways developed

Our human brain is not only bigger and contains more neurons than the brains of other species, but it is also connected in a special pattern: Thick bundles of neurons connect brain regions across long distances, such as the right and left brain hemispheres. A team of researchers at IMBA, including Catarina Martins-Costa, Nina Corsini and Jürgen Knoblich, now presents the first organoid model in which these information highways can be studied. Their results are published on May 7th in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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Riesling Wines: Human Odorant Receptor for Characteristic Petrol Note Identified for the First Time

Climate change does not stop at grapevines. Too much sun means that the bouquet of German Riesling wines becomes dominated by a petrol note (some) customers do not appreciate. A research team from the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich has now identified the human odorant receptor responsible for the perception of this special aroma note for the first time.

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First insights into the genetic bottleneck characterizing early sheep husbandry in the Neolithic period

Mitogenetic diversity of sheep did not decline in the Anatolian distribution area of wild sheep when sheep husbandry developed in the early Neolithic c. 10,000 years ago, as previously assumed. SNSB and LMU zooarchaeologist Prof. Joris Peters and collaborators could show that matrilineal diversity remained high during the first 1,000 years of human interference with sheep keeping and breeding in captivity, whilst only declining significantly in the course of the later Neolithic period. The results of their study are reported in the journal Science Advances.

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Nerve Cells “Old at Heart” — Key Molecules Persist Throughout Life

Most human nerve cells last a lifetime without renewal. A trait echoed within the cells’ components, some enduring as long as the organism itself. New research by Martin Hetzer, molecular biologist and president of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), and colleagues discovered RNA, a typical transient molecule, in the nerve cells of mice that remain stable for their entire lives. Published in Science, these findings contribute to unraveling the complexities of brain aging and associated diseases.

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TU Dresden Researchers Identify Factor Involved in Brain Expansion in Humans

What makes us human? According to neurobiologists it is our neocortex. This outer layer of the brain is rich in neurons and lets us do abstract thinking, create art, and speak complex languages. An international team led by Dr. Mareike Albert at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) of TUD Dresden University of Technology has identified a new factor that might have contributed to neocortex expansion in humans. The results were published in the EMBO Journal.

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Hijacking in the immune system

HCMV reprograms cellular defence mechanisms

The human cytomegalovirus, HCMV for short, lies dormant unnoticed in the body of most people for their entire lives. In immunocompromised individuals, however, the virus can cause life-threatening infections. It infects dendritic cells, a specific type of cell in the immune system. Although the majority of them are infected, only a few of them immediately execute the virus’s genetic programme. Researchers at TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, have now been able to show which signalling pathways of the innate immune system the virus is targeting in order to have itself produced by the host cells.

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New growth factor for the liver

A healthy liver is capable of completely regenerating itself. Researchers from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU), University Hospital Düsseldorf (UKD) and the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) have now identified the growth factor MYDGF (Myeloid-Derived Growth Factor), which is important for this regenerative capacity. In cooperation with the Hannover Medical School and the University Medical Center Mainz, they also showed that higher levels of MYDGF can be detected in the blood of patients following partial removal of the liver. In the scientific journal Nature Communications, they also report that this growth factor stimulates the proliferation of human hepatocytes in a tissue culture.

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What defines a human and healthy microbiome?

Comparative genome study of the CRC 1182 using humans and great apes provides new insights into the development and adaptation of the gut microbiome under different lifestyles

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Use of habitat for agricultural purposes puts primate infants at risk

Frequent visits to oil palm plantations are leading to a sharp increase in mortality rates among infant southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) in the wild, according to a new study published in Current Biology. In addition to increased risk from predators and human encounters, exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals in this environment may negatively affect infant development.

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Looking into the future of the ocean: METEOR Expedition uses the Eastern Mediterranean as a laboratory for the future

05 January 2024/Kiel/Limassol. Tomorrow, the research vessel METEOR will leave Cyprus for a four-week research cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean, led by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. The Eastern Mediterranean Sea is particularly affected by climate change and human activities and is changing rapidly. The planned investigations across a diverse range of oceanic settings will provide information on what these changes look like and what they mean for the ecosystems of a future (sub)tropical ocean. The data collected will be combined with information from satellites and other autonomous platforms and modelling to provide a comprehensive picture of the changes.

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Treating tuberculosis when antibiotics no longer work

A research team has detected various substances that have a dual effect against tuberculosis: They make the bacteria causing the disease less pathogenic for human immune cells and boost the activity of conventional antibiotics / publication in ‘Cell Chemical Biology’

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Light colour is less important for the internal clock than originally thought

Light in the evening is thought to be bad for sleep. However, does the colour of the light play a role? Researchers from the University of Basel and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) compared the influence of different light colours on the human body. The researchers’ findings contradict the results of a previous study in mice.

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Accelerating Drug Development for Lung Diseases: New Insights from Single-Cell Genomics

To mechanistically understand the root causes of lung disease, and identify drugs that target specific pathways, the scientists around Prof. Herbert Schiller and Dr. Gerald Burgstaller from Helmholtz Munich are collecting deep molecular insights from patient samples and combining these with experimental interventions in the laboratory. A new combination of methods now enabled them to study mechanisms directly in human lung tissue, thereby accelerating drug development for novel therapies. This groundbreaking work is now published in Science Translational Medicine.

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Tracing the Evolution of the “Little Brain”

The evolution of higher cognitive functions in humans has so far mostly been linked to the expansion of the neocortex. Researchers are increasingly realising, however, that the “little brain” or cerebellum also expanded during evolution and probably contributes to the capacities unique to humans. A Heidelberg research team has now generated comprehensive genetic maps of the development of cells in the cerebella of human, mouse and opossum. Comparisons of these maps reveal both ancestral and species-specific cellular and molecular characteristics of cerebellum development.

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Deep-sea mining and warming trigger stress in a midwater jellyfish: GEOMAR study investigates effects of sediment plumes

21.11.2023/Kiel. The deep sea is home to one of the largest animal communities on earth which is increasingly exposed to environmental pressures. However, our knowledge of its inhabitants and their response to human-induced stressors is still limited. A new study led by scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel now provides first insights into the stress response of a pelagic deep-sea jellyfish to ocean warming and sediment plumes caused by deep-sea mining. The researchers are publishing their results today in the journal Nature Communications.

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Defect in fruit fly respiratory system may provide insights into human aortic aneurysms

A team of researchers led by Leipzig University has gained new insights into the respiratory system of fruit flies – the so-called tracheal system – which could be important for future research into aneurysms. Dr Matthias Behr from the Institute of Biology (Department of Cell Biology) at Leipzig University and his team, together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen, carried out genetic, cell biological and biochemical studies on Drosophila embryos.

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Proven for the First Time: The Microbiome of Fruit and Vegetables Positively Influences Diversity in the Gut

In a meta-study, a research team from the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at TU Graz has provided evidence that the consumption of fruit and vegetables contributes positively to bacterial diversity in the human gut.

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Scientists develop novel nanoparticles that could serve as contrast agents

Special nanoparticles could one day improve modern imaging techniques. Developed by researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the properties of these unique nanoparticles change in reaction to heat. When combined with an integrated dye, the particles may be used in photoacoustic imaging to produce high-resolution, three-dimensional internal images of the human body, the team reports in the journal „Chemical Communications“.

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Interpreting Large-Scale Medical Datasets: ScPoli Enables Multi-Scale Representations of Cells and Samples

The increasing amount of data recorded in medical research can only lead to scientific breakthroughs and essential therapies for patients if interpreted and analyzed correctly. Computer scientists at Helmholtz Munich developed a generative model named scPoli (single-cell population level integration), that performs data integration of high-quality large-scale datasets of single cells to create valuable single-cell reference maps of the human body, so-called single-cell atlases, for medical research.

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Exercise and Muscle Regulation: Implications for Diabetes and Obesity

How do our muscles respond at the molecular level to exercise? Researchers at Helmholtz Munich and the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) have unraveled the cellular basis and signaling pathways responsible for the positive impact of physical activity on our overall health. Regulatory T cells, a type of immune cell, play a critical role in ensuring proper muscle function. These novel insights are paving the path towards precision medicines targeting metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes, as well as muscle-related illnesses. Their discoveries are published in Cell Metabolism.

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Cellular Cartography

An international team of scientists has created the first comprehensive index of human cells, mapping the sizes and abundance of all cell types across the entire body. This groundbreaking study, published in PNAS, reveals surprising mathematical patterns underlying cell size and number, challenging our fundamental understanding of cell growth and proliferation.

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