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.

Quelle: IDW Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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“.

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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.

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The gene to which we owe our big brain

Brain organoids provide insights into the evolution of the human brain

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Stress in the kids room: The birth of a younger sibling activates long-lasting stress reactions in young bonobos

The birth of a second child is a remarkable experience not only for the parents, but also for the older sibling. From human behavioral studies it is known that the change in the family constellation is a confusing and stressful time for the older child, frequently accompanied by clinginess, depressive conditions, and temper tantrums. So far, it was unknown to which extent this stress is also physiologically detectable. Verena Behringer, a scientist at the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, has investigated this question in one of our closest living relatives. (eLife)

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When humans gesture, they activate an ancient connection between movement and breathing

Researchers from Radboud University and ZAS Berlin have developed a new perspective on why humans often move their hands rhythmically during speaking. The perspective published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, suggests that there are striking connections between animal and human behavior when it comes to moving with sounds. For example, flying bats synchronize their echo-locating vocalization and their wingbeats which can be directly related to how humans synchronize acoustic features of their voice and move their upper limbs.

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Why some people suffer more from COVID-19 than others

A large number of people are currently contracting COVID-19. Fortunately, most of them are experiencing only mild symptoms, largely thanks to the high vaccination rate. However, in some individuals the disease takes a much more severe cause and our understanding about the underlying reasons is still insufficient. The human genome may hold a key to why COVID-19 is more serious for some people than others. A team of scientists from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) together with colleagues from the United Kingdom and Canada have found genes and proteins that contribute to a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Their findings have now been published in the journal Nature Communications

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How the genome is packed into chromosomes that can be faithfully moved during cell division

Researchers from the Gerlich Group at IMBA – Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences – discovered a molecular mechanism that confers special physical properties to chromosomes in dividing human cells to enable their faithful transport to the progeny. The team showed how a chemical modification establishes a sharp surface boundary on chromosomes, thus allowing them to resist perforation by microtubules of the spindle apparatus. The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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Global Spread of Powdery Mildew through Migration and Trade

The worldwide distribution of one of the most important cereal pathogens is the result of human activity. Researchers at the University of Zurich have traced the history and spread of wheat powdery mildew along wheat trade routes and found that mixing of genetic ancestries of related powdery mildew species played a central role in the evolution and adaptation of the pathogen.

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Movement can help with the processing of visual information

Modern living and working environments are increasingly characterised by the simultaneous execution of locomotion and sensory – mostly visual – processing. Also, many job profiles require the simultaneous processing of visual information while walking. For example, a worker in warehouse logistics has to go to the right aisle to pick up a package, while visual information about the next order is already presented to him via data glasses. Researchers at the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environments and Human Factors in Dortmund (IfADo) have studied the interaction of human locomotion with increasing movement complexity and visual processing in more detail using EEG recordings.

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Genetic defect leads to motor disorders in flies

Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Osnabrück have discovered a protein whose defect causes motor disorders in flies. The protein had also previously been found in human patients with Parkinson’s disease. So far, however, it was not known what function it has in the cell. The study now provides an answer to this question. The work, in which the University Hospital Aachen was also involved, has now been published in the journal Science Advances.

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Ultrasonic detectors reveal the detrimental effect of wind turbines at forest sites on bats

As more and more wind turbines (WTs) are installed in the course of the energy transition and distance regulations to human settlements are tightened, suitable locations are becoming increasingly difficult to find. As a result, wind turbines are increasingly being erected in forests – to the detriment of forest specialists among bats.

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The beginning of life: The early embryo is in the driver’s seat

One often thinks that the early embryo is fragile and needs support. However, at the earliest stages of development, it has the power to feed the future placenta and instructs the uterus so that it can nest. Using ‘blastoids’, in vitro embryo models formed with stem cells, the Lab of Nicolas Rivron at IMBA showed that the earliest molecular signals that induce placental development and prepare the uterus come from the embryo itself. The findings, now published in Cell Stem Cell, could contribute to a better understanding of human fertility.

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Parkinson’s disease: Copper leads to protein aggregation

Copper exposure in the environment and the protein alpha-synuclein in the human brain could play an important role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. A team from Empa and the University of Limerick was able to show how the protein takes on an unusual shape when exposed to large amounts of copper ions. The findings could help develop new strategies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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Understanding how microbiota thrive in their human hosts

A research team lead by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, has now made substantial progress in understanding how gut bacteria succeed in their human hosts on a molecular level. They investigated how bacteria produce inositol lipids, substances vital for many cellular processes in humans and other eukaryotes but hitherto rarely observed in bacteria. The results, now published in the journal Nature Microbiology, indicate that inositol lipids have implications for the symbiosis between the bacteria and their hosts.

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Mass spectrometry-based draft of the mouse proteome

Proteins control and organize almost every aspect of life. The totality of all proteins in a living organism, a tissue or a cell is called the proteome. Using mass spectrometry, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) characterize the proteome, or protein complement of the genome, in important model organisms. In 2014, a team at the Chair of Proteomics and Bioanalytics reported a draft human proteome for the first time, followed by that of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in 2020, and now that of the most common laboratory mouse.

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Silence for thought: special interneuron networks in the human brain

The analysis of the human brain is a central goal of neuroscience. However, for methodological reasons, research has largely focused on model organisms, in particular the mouse. Now, neuroscientists gained novel insights on human neural circuitry using tissue obtained from neurosurgical interventions. Three-dimensional electron microscope data revealed a novel expanded network of interneurons in humans compared to mouse. The discovery of this prominent network component in the human cortex encourages further detailed analysis of its function in health and disease.

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