Research news 2014
Bats are a possible source of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa
HEIDELBERG, 30 December 2014 - The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease occurring in West Africa may have originated from contact between humans and virus-infected bats, suggests a study led by researchers from the Robert Koch-Institute in Berlin, Germany. The report, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, identifies insectivorous free-tailed bats as plausible reservoirs and expands the range of possible Ebola virus sources to this type of bats. The results also reveal that larger wildlife are not the source of infection.
Molecular network identified underlying autism spectrum disorders
HEIDELBERG, 30 December 2014 - Researchers in the United States have identified a molecular network that comprises many of the genes previously shown to contribute to autism spectrum disorders. The findings provide a map of some of the crucial protein interactions that contribute to autism and will help uncover novel candidate genes for the disease. The results are published in Molecular Systems Biology.
Protection of the mouse gut by mucus depends on microbes
HEIDELBERG, 18 December 2014 – The quality of the colon mucus in mice depends on the composition of gut microbiota, reports a Swedish-Norwegian team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo. The work, published in EMBO reports, suggests that bacteria in the gut affect mucus barrier properties in ways that can have implications for health and disease.
Autophagy helps fast track stem cell activation
HEIDELBERG, 14 October 2014 – Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a link between a protective mechanism used by cells and the activation of muscle stem cells. Cells use autophagy to recycle cellular "building blocks" and generate energy during times of nutrient deprivation. The scientists report in The EMBO Journal that when this protective mechanism is operational it also seems to assist in the activation of stem cells.
Researchers reveal transcription factor’s likely role in human intestinal cancer
HEIDELBERG, 8 October 2014 – Researchers in Spain have determined how a transcription factor known as Mirror regulates tumour-like growth in the intestines of fruit flies. The scientists believe a related system may be at work in humans during the progression of colorectal cancer due to the observation of similar genes and genetic interactions in cultured colorectal cancer cells. The results are reported in the journal EMBO reports.
Dendritic cells affect onset and progress of psoriasis
HEIDELBERG, 12 September 2014 – Different types of dendritic cells in human skin have assorted functions in the early and more advanced stages of psoriasis report researchers in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The scientists suggest that new strategies to regulate the composition of dendritic cells in psoriatic skin lesions might represent an approach for the future treatment of the disease.
Hearing protein required to convert sound into brain signals
HEIDELBERG, 17 June 2014 – A specific protein found in the bridge-like structures that make up part of the auditory machinery of the inner ear is essential for hearing. The absence of this protein or impairment of the gene that codes for this protein leads to profound deafness in mice and humans, respectively, reports a team of researchers in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Researchers identify link between colon cancer and metabolism
HEIDELBERG, 13 May 2014 – More than 60 years ago Otto Warburg recognized that cancer cells differ from normal cells in the metabolic pathway they use for the oxidation of sugar. Rather than the typical series of oxidative steps that take place in the citric acid cycle, cancer cells metabolize sugar via the glycolytic pathway irrespective of whether oxygen is present or not. In The EMBO Journal, researchers in the United States report that the reason for this difference in colon cancer is changes in the Wnt signaling pathway, an essential communication pathway operating in these tumours.
Endocrine disruptors impair human sperm function
HEIDELBERG, 12 May 2014 – A plethora of endocrine-disrupting chemicals interfere with human sperm function in a way that may have a negative impact on fertilization. These are the findings of a German - Danish team of researchers from the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research in Bonn, Germany, and the University Department of Growth and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. The work, which is published in EMBO reports, suggests that endocrine disruptors may contribute to widespread fertility problems in the Western world in a way that hitherto has not been recognized.
Reconstructed ancient ocean reveals secrets about the origin of life
HEIDELBERG, 25 April 2014 – Researchers from the University of Cambridge have published details about how the first organisms on Earth could have become metabolically active. The results, which are reported in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, permit scientists to speculate how primitive cells learned to synthesize their organic components – the molecules that form RNA, lipids and amino acids. The findings also suggest an order for the sequence of events that led to the origin of life.
Some long non-coding RNAs are conventional after all
HEIDELBERG, 4 April 2014 – Not so long ago researchers thought that RNAs came in two types: coding RNAs that make proteins and non-coding RNAs that have structural roles. Then came the discovery of small RNAs that opened up whole new areas of research. Now researchers have come full circle and predicted that some long non-coding RNAs can give rise to small proteins that have biological functions. A recent study in The EMBO Journal describes how researchers have used ribosome profiling to identify several hundred long non-coding RNAs that may give rise to small peptides.
Small non-coding RNAs could be warning signs of cancer
HEIDELBERG, 17 February 2014 – Small non-coding RNAs can be used to predict if individuals have breast cancer conclude researchers who contribute to The Cancer Genome Atlas project. The results, which are published in EMBO reports, indicate that differences in the levels of specific types of non-coding RNAs can be used to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous tissues. These RNAs can also be used to classify cancer patients into subgroups of individuals that have different survival outcomes.
Quality control of mitochondria as a defense against disease
HEIDELBERG, 20 January 2014 – Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in Canada have discovered that two genes linked to hereditary Parkinson’s disease are involved in the early-stage quality control of mitochondria. The protective mechanism, which is reported in The EMBO Journal, removes damaged proteins that arise from oxidative stress from mitochondria.
Stem cells overcome damage in other cells by exporting mitochondria
HEIDELBERG, 16 January 2014 – A research team has identified a protein that increases the transfer of mitochondria from mesenchymal stem cells to lung cells. In work published in The EMBO Journal, the researchers reveal that the delivery of mitochondria to human lung cells can rejuvenate damaged cells. The migration of mitochondria from stem cells to epithelial cells also helps to repair tissue damage and inflammation linked to asthma-like symptoms in mice.
Researchers propose alternative way to allocate science funding
HEIDELBERG, 8 January 2014 – Researchers in the United States have suggested an alternative way to allocate science funding. The method, which is described in EMBO reports, depends on a collective distribution of funding by the scientific community, requires only a fraction of the costs associated with the traditional peer review of grant proposals and, according to the authors, may yield comparable or even better results.
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