Research news 2013
The benefits of bacteria for gut health
HEIDELBERG, 18 October 2013 – Scientists from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, United States have shown that specific gut bacteria are beneficial for maintaining a healthy intestine in the fruit fly Drosophila and mice and also contribute to the overall health of these organisms. The researchers demonstrated that bacteria in the gut, particularly members of the genus Lactobacillus, promote the growth of host epithelial cells and that this is essential for maintaining homeostasis in the intestinal system. The findings, which are published today in The EMBO Journal, could have implications for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease as well as allergic, metabolic and infectious disorders.
Fragile X syndrome protein linked to breast cancer progression
HEIDELBERG, 18 September 2013 – A research team led by scientists from VIB/KU Leuven, Belgium, and the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy, in collaboration with several research centers and hospitals in Italy, the United Kingdom and, Belgium, has identified the way Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein or FMRP contributes to the progression of breast cancer. The researchers demonstrated that FMRP acts as a master switch controlling the levels of several proteins involved in different stages of aggressive breast cancer, including the invasion of cancer cells into blood vessels and the spread of these cancer cells to other tissues. The work is published on-line in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Pancreatic stem cells isolated from mice
HEIDELBERG, 17 September 2013 – Scientists have succeeded in growing stem cells that have the ability to develop into two different types of cells that make up a healthy pancreas. The research team led by Dr. Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute, The Netherlands, have isolated and grown stem cells from the pancreases of mice using a 3-D culture system previously developed by the scientists. The results, which are reported in The EMBO Journal, could eventually lead to ways to repair damaged insulin-producing beta cells or pancreatic duct cells.
New muscular dystrophy treatment shows promise in early study
HEIDELBERG, 9 September 2013 – A preclinical study led by researchers in the United States has found that a new oral drug shows early promise for the treatment of muscular dystrophy. The results, which are published today in EMBO Molecular Medicine, show that VBP15 decreases inflammation in mice with symptoms similar to those found in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The authors found that the drug protects and strengthens muscle without the harsh side effects linked to current treatments with glucocorticoids such as prednisone.
Alternative target for breast cancer drugs
HEIDELBERG, 19 July 2013 – Scientists have identified higher levels of a receptor protein found on the surface of human breast tumour cells that may serve as a new drug target for the treatment of breast cancer. The results, which are published today in EMBO Molecular Medicine, show that elevated levels of the protein Ret, which is short for “Rearranged during transfection”, are associated with a lower likelihood of survival for breast cancer patients in the years following surgery to remove tumours and cancerous tissue.
Alzheimer’s disease protein controls movement in mice
HEIDELBERG, 24 June 2013 – Researchers in Berlin and Munich, Germany, and Oxford, United Kingdom, have revealed that a protein well known for its role in Alzheimer’s disease controls spindle development in muscle and leads to impaired movement in mice when the protein is absent or treated with inhibitors. The results, which are published in The EMBO Journal, suggest that drugs under development to target the beta-secretase-1 protein, which may be potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, might produce unwanted side effects related to defective movement.
How disease mutations affect the Parkin protein
HEIDELBERG, 31 May 2013 – Researchers at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom have determined the crystal structure of Parkin, a protein found in cells that when mutated can lead to a hereditary form of Parkinson’s disease. The results, which are published in The EMBO Journal, define the position of many of the mutations linked to hereditary Parkinson’s disease and explain how these alterations may affect the stability and function of the protein. The findings may in time reveal how the activity of Parkin is affected in patients with this rare but debilitating type of Parkinson’s disease.
Corruption influences migration of skilled workers
HEIDELBERG, 17 May 2013 – Countries that have higher levels of corruption struggle to attract and retain skilled workers report the authors of a new study published in EMBO reports.
San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment
MAY 16, 2013—An ad hoc coalition of unlikely insurgents—scientists, journal editors and publishers, scholarly societies, and research funders across many scientific disciplines—today posted an international declaration calling on the world scientific community to eliminate the role of the journal impact factor (JIF) in evaluating research for funding, hiring, promotion, or institutional effectiveness.
Researchers outline concerns about unproven stem cell therapies
HEIDELBERG, 3 May 2013 – An international group of leading stem cell researchers has issued a statement that specifies concerns about the development and use of unproven stem cell therapies. The commentary is published online today in The EMBO Journal ahead of a debate in the Italian parliament on whether to change a recent law that allows certain untested stem cell therapies to be used by the public health system. The authors of the commentary argue that rigorous clinical testing and regulation of stem cell therapies are essential to introduce safe and effective medical interventions for patients.
Sequencing tracks animal-to-human transmission of bacterial pathogens
HEIDELBERG, 25 March 2013 – Researchers have used whole genome sequencing to reveal if drug-resistant bacteria are transmitted from animals to humans in two disease outbreaks that occurred on different farms in Denmark. The results, which are published today in EMBO Molecular Medicine, confirm animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a disease-causing bacterium that carries the recently described mecC gene. The mecC gene is responsible for resistance to the penicillin-like antibiotic methicillin.
Hereditary neurodegeneration linked to ADP-ribose modification
HEIDELBERG, 12 March 2013 – Attaching chains of the small molecule ADP-ribose to proteins is important for a cell’s survival and the repair of DNA damage, making this process a promising target for the development of new cancer drugs. Researchers have now identified a much sought after enzyme that removes such ADP-ribose modifications from proteins by studying a genetic mutation that causes neurodegenerative disease in humans. These findings, published today in The EMBO Journal, suggest that not only addition but also removal of ADP-ribose from proteins is essential for normal cell function.
Neuronal activity induces tau release from healthy neurons
HEIDELBERG, 15 February 2013 – Researchers from King’s College London have discovered that neuronal activity can stimulate tau release from healthy neurons in the absence of cell death. The results published by Diane Hanger and her colleagues in EMBO reports show that treatment of neurons with known biological signaling molecules increases the release of tau into the culture medium. The release of tau from cortical neurons is therefore a physiological process that can be regulated by neuronal activity.
New citation indicators needed to measure research performance
HEIDELBERG, 12 February 2013 – How do you compare the impact of a researcher in chemistry or physics with a molecular biologist who may be working on similar projects? In an article published today in EMBO reports two experts support the use of citation indicators that are based on percentiles, a statistical parameter that allows for comparisons with a carefully defined group of reference data. Journal impact factors and h-index alone do not make the grade.