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Research news 2012

Scientists discover new diagnostic markers for Kawasaki disease


HEIDELBERG, 20 December 2012 – Researchers have discovered proteins in human urine that offer new opportunities for the diagnosis, study and maybe even the treatment of Kawasaki disease.


Cancer stem cells isolated from kidney tumours


HEIDELBERG, 13 December 2012 – Scientists have isolated cancer stem cells that lead to the growth of Wilms' tumours, a type of cancer typically found in the kidneys of young children.


Engineered bacteria can make the ultimate sacrifice


HEIDELBERG, 20 November 2012 – Scientists have engineered bacteria that are capable of sacrificing themselves for the good of the bacterial population. These altruistically inclined bacteria, which are described online in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, can be used to demonstrate the conditions where programmed cell death becomes a distinct advantage for the survival of the bacterial population.


No evidence for 30-nm chromatin fibres in the mouse genome


HEIDELBERG, 4 October 2012 – Scientists in Canada and the United States have used three-dimensional imaging techniques to settle a long-standing debate about how DNA and structural proteins are packaged into chromatin fibres. The researchers, whose findings are published in EMBO reports, reveal that the mouse genome consists of 10-nm chromatin fibres but did not find evidence for the wider 30-nm fibres that were previously thought to be important components of the DNA architecture.


Brain neurons and diet influence onset of obesity and diabetes in mice


HEIDELBERG, 18 September 2012 – The absence of a specific type of neuron in the brain can leadtoobesity and diabetes in mice report researchers in The EMBOJournal. The outcome, however, depends on the type of diet that the animals are fed.


Scientists reveal how natural antibiotic kills tuberculosis bacterium


HEIDELBERG, 17 September 2012 – A natural product secreted by a soil bacterium shows promise as a new drug to treat tuberculosis report scientists in a new study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. A team of scientists working in Switzerland has shown how pyridomycin, a natural antibiotic produced by the bacterium Dactylosporangium fulvum, works. This promising drug candidate is active against many of the drug-resistant types of the tuberculosis bacterium that no longer respond to treatment with the front-line drug isoniazid.


Anchoring proteins influence glucose metabolism and insulin release


HEIDELBERG, 3 September 2012 – Scientists from the United States and Sweden have discovered a new control point that could be important as a drug target for the treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases. A-kinase anchoring proteins or AKAPs are known to influence the spatial distribution of kinases within the cell, crucial enzymes that control important molecular events related to the regulation of glucose levels in the blood. In a new study published in The EMBO Journal, the team of researchers led by Simon Hinke and John Scott reveal for the first time that AKAPs influence the levels of glucose in the body by coordinating the spatial positioning of phosphatases, naturally occurring enzymes that counteract the effects of kinase enzymes.


Fragile X and Down syndromes share signalling pathway for intellectual disability


HEIDELBERG, 3 August 2012 – Intellectual disability due to Fragile X and Down syndromes involves similar molecular pathways report researchers in The EMBO Journal. The two disorders share disturbances in the molecular events that regulate the way nerve cells develop dendritic spines, the small extensions found on the surface of nerve cells that are crucial for communication in the brain.


Computational analysis identifies drugs to treat drug-resistant breast cancer


HEIDELBERG, 31 July 2012 – Researchers have used computational analysis to identify a new Achilles heel for the treatment of drug-resistant breast cancer. The results, which are published in Molecular Systems Biology, reveal that the disruption of glucose metabolism is an effective therapeutic strategy for the treatment of tumours that have acquired resistance to front-line cancer drugs such as Lapatinib.


Naturally occurring protein has a role in chronic pain


HEIDELBERG, 12 June 2012 – Researchers in France and Sweden have discovered how one of the body's own proteins is involved in generating chronic pain in rats. The results, which also suggest therapeutic interventions to alleviate long-lasting pain, are reported in The EMBO Journal.


Telomerase gene therapy slows ageing, improves health in mice


HEIDELBERG, 15 May 2012 – Gene therapy allows older mice to live longer, healthier lives report researchers in a new study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. Mice that received a single gene-therapy treatment to deliver telomerase to different cells in the body showed drastic improvements in health, fitness and longevity. Telomerase is an enzyme that helps to maintain the physical integrity of the ends of chromosomes.


Protein signal is crucial for accurate control of insect size


HEIDELBERG, 4 May 2012 – Two independent groups of researchers have identified a hormone that is responsible for keeping the growth and development of insects on track. The results, which are reported in the journal Science, suggest that Dilp8 provides an important signal to slow body growth and delay insect development. This braking effect is an essential part of normal development since it allows sufficient time for tissues to form and the correct body size, proportions and symmetry to be achieved.


TARA OCEANS completes 60 000-mile journey to map marine biodiversity


HEIDELBERG, 27 March 2012 – The two-and-a-half-year TARA OCEANS expedition finishes on 31 March when the ship and crew reach Lorient, France. The arrival completes a journey of 60 000 miles across all the world’s major oceans to sample and investigate microorganisms in the largest ecosystem on the planet, reports Eric Karsenti in an editorial published today in Molecular Systems Biology.


Antibiotic treatment increases the severity of asthma in young mice


Heidelberg, 16 March 2012 – Treatment with the antibiotic vancomycin increases the severity of allergic asthma in young mice, researchers in Canada have revealed in a new study published in EMBO reports. The results are consistent with the “hygiene hypothesis” that links the loss of beneficial bacteria in the community of microorganisms in the gut, collectively known as the microbiota, to the onset of asthma.



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