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Research news

Switching on paternal behaviour


Heidelberg, 30 September 2015 – Male mice dramatically change their social behaviour towards newborn pups after mating and cohabitation with pregnant females. Japanese neurobiologists now report in The EMBO Journal that activation of defined small regions of the mouse brain determine whether a male mouse will show infanticidal or paternal behaviour. Mice that were only motivated for, but did not actually carry out infanticide, display the same activity patterns, indicating that it may be possible to detect motivation for complex behaviours by studying activation of a small selection of brain nuclei.


Live imaging reveals how wound healing influences cancer


HEIDELBERG, 1 July 2015 – Researchers in the United Kingdom and Denmark have studied the "see-through" larvae of zebrafish to reveal how wound healing leads to skin cancer. Live imaging shows neutrophils, the protective inflammatory cells of the body's immune system, diverted from an induced wound to any nearby precancerous skin cells. The newly arrived neutrophils cause rapid division of these skin cells, which may cause them to progress to melanoma. The results are published in The EMBO Journal.


Systems-wide genetic investigation of blood pressure regulation in the Framingham Heart Study


HEIDELBERG, 16 April 2015 – A genetic investigation of individuals in the Framingham Heart Study may prove useful to identify novel targets for the prevention or treatment of high blood pressure. The study, which takes a close look at networks of blood pressure-related genes, is published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology.


Researchers develop tool to understand how the gut microbiome works


HEIDELBERG, 11 March 2015 – Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Columbia University in the United States have developed a way to study the functions of hard-to-grow bacteria that contribute to the composition of the gut microbiome. The new method is published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology.


Cancer-linked protein helps control fate of intestinal stem cells


HEIDELBERG, 10 March 2015 – An international group of researchers has shown that a regulatory protein involved in controlling how cancer spreads through the body also influences the fate of stem cells in the intestine of mice. The results, which are published in The EMBO Journal, show that the Snai1 protein plays an important role in deciding the fate of intestinal stem cells and the different functions that these cells can adopt.


Quality control for adult stem cell treatment


HEIDELBERG, 27 February 2015 – A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected and cultivated, genetically modified and single cells isolated before being rigorously tested to make sure they meet the highest possible safety criteria. The strategy, which is published online in EMBO Molecular Medicine, is inspired by the approaches the biotechnology industry and regulatory affairs authorities have adopted for medicinal proteins produced from genetically engineered mammalian cells. 


Scientists use tissue engineering to grow leg muscle


HEIDELBERG, 25 February 2015 – A team of researchers from Italy, Israel and the United Kingdom has succeeded in generating mature, functional skeletal muscles in mice using a new approach for tissue engineering. The scientists grew a leg muscle starting from engineered cells cultured in a dish to produce a graft. The subsequent graft was implanted close to a normal, contracting skeletal muscle where the new muscle was nurtured and grown. In time, the method could allow for patient-specific treatments for a large number of muscle disorders. The results are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.


Anti-inflammatory drug counters obesity in mice


HEIDELBERG, 19 February 2015 – Obesity represents a global health problem with limited options available for its prevention or treatment. The finding that a key regulator of energy expenditure and body weight is controlled by a drug-targeted inflammatory enzyme opens new possibilities for pharmacologically modulating body weight. This is the conclusion of a study led by Toshihiro Nakajima of Tokyo Medical University in Japan, reported in The EMBO Journal.


Gut microbes trigger autoimmune disease later in life in mice


HEIDELBERG, 19 January 2015 – Researchers have revealed that the colonization of the gut of young mice by certain types of bacteria can lead to immune responses later in life that are linked to disease. Increases in the levels of segmented filamentous bacteria can trigger changes in the lymphoid tissue of the mouse gut that result in the production of antibodies that attack components of the cell nucleus. This type of damage is a hallmark of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis where organs throughout the body are damaged by wayward immune responses. The findings are published in The EMBO Journal.



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