Oct 202014
 

 An evolutionary surprise

The marine worm Platynereis has a muscle (red) which develops in the same place and has the same genetic signature as the notochord (blue) that develops into our spinal discs. Credit: Kalliopi Monoyios

The marine worm Platynereis has a muscle (red) which develops in the same place and has the same genetic signature as the notochord (blue) that develops into our spinal discs. Credit: Kalliopi Monoyios

Thoughts of the family tree may not be uppermost in the mind of a person suffering from a slipped disc, but those spinal discs provide a window into our evolutionary past. They are remnants of the first vertebrate skeleton, whose origins now appear to be older than had been assumed. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, have found that, unexpectedly, this skeleton most likely evolved from a muscle. The study, carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Janelia Farm, USA, is published in Science.

Humans are part of a group of animals called chordates, whose defining feature is a rod of cartilage that runs lengthwise along the middle of their body, under their spinal chord. This structure, called the notochord, was the first vertebrate skeleton. It is present in human embryos, and is replaced with the backbone as we develop, with the cartilage reduced to those tell-tale discs. Since starfish, sea urchins and related animals have no such structure, scientists assumed Continue reading »

Oct 132014
 

EIL2014_title1Have you ever wondered why we do what we do?…biologically speaking, of course. On Friday 5th December 2014 Cornelius Gross, EMBL group leader, will attempt to answer this question from a neuroscientific point of view in this year’s EMBL Insight Lecture entitled “Why do we do what we do? Exploring the neural basis of emotions”.

You are warmly invited to join us for the 2014 EMBL Insight Lecture live stream over the web. This is a great opportunity to take your students onto a journey about the brain and how it controls behaviour – without having to leave the classroom.

For more information and how to register, please visit the EMBL Insight Lecture registration page.

Oct 102014
 

log2EMBL Poster_ELLS_LLAB_Heidelberg_0914_V4
26 German secondary school biology teachers gathered at EMBL Heidelberg last week to attend the LearningLAB “Log in to Science – Forschern auf der Spur: Forschungssimulation am Beispiel der Eisenspeicherkrankheit (Hämochromatose)”  – a joint CPD course organised by ELLS, the out-of-school lab ExploHeidelberg, and the Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe (regional administrative council).

Over two days, teachers had the opportunity to explore the virtual research institute log2EMBL which has been developed by teachers, students and ELLS staff as part of the Robert Bosch Stiftung-funded iNEXT (interactive Network for Experimental Training) project. iNEXT has been a 3-year project to develop and disseminate state-of-the-art resources for teaching molecular biology at the advanced level in German schools (www.inext-embl.de).

The virtual research institute log2EMBL is a platform to offer inquiry-based research projects for students. It enables students to actively participate in an interactive research simulation which can be integrated in their school biology curriculum. As part of the LearningLAB, the enthusiastic participants received an introduction into handling the web-based aspects of the institute and also got the chance to get their hands wet in a laboratory experiment investigating the genetic basis of the hereditary disease haemochromatosis. The programme was complemented by an expert presentation on haemochromatosis and a visit to the EMBL Genomics Core Facility – the EMBL in-house genomics services centre. The course was co-facilitated by a teacher who was involved in developing the haemochromatosis project in log2EMBL.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sep 162014
 
Public film event in Heidelberg

Cell fate: Journeys to specialisation Have you ever wondered how cells differentiate into specific cell types? How do our blood, skin and muscle cells get their distinct abilities and shapes? And how are these processes controlled on a molecular and cellular level? Join us on Sunday 12th October 2014 at 18:00 at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut

...read more
Sep 082014
 
Scientists for a day

For just one day, PhD students could no longer claim the title of ‘youngest researchers’ at EMBL. That honour went to the 13 students aged 11 to 17 who conducted a full-day experiment in the EMBL training labs as part of the Tschira-Jugendakademie at the end of August this year. Initially created as a one-time

...read more
Sep 032014
 
Will we ever win the race against all the viruses?

As a fresh outbreak of Ebola takes its toll in West Africa, I ask myself why we know a lot about viruses and yet do not have a vaccine or a drug against a lot of them. A little over two hundred years ago, in 1796, Edward Jenner developed the first antiviral vaccine to treat smallpox virus and since then scientists have developed vaccines for various viral diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis, influenza and rotavirus. However, we still have no vaccines against the common cold and many other, often deadly, viral infections such as Lassa, Marburg, SARS and H1N1. This seems perplexing at first, but let’s take a closer look into why handling a virus is not just challenging but actually quite tricky.

...read more
Aug 292014
 
Fascinated by proteins? Join the next ELLS Webinar!

Have you ever wondered what proteins look like on the molecular level? Are you curious what methods scientists use to find out? If you are keen to get an insight into the fascinating world of protein X-ray crystallography, the next ELLS webinar by EMBL visiting scientist Kanchan Anand will present the ideal opportunity! Don’t worry,

...read more
Aug 052014
 
Ask EMBL… anything!

Have you ever wondered… How do you pronounce “Helicobacter pylori”? How does genetic sequencing work? How do I become the director general of a top international research facility? As part of our 40th anniversary celebration, we’re asking you to ask EMBL…anything! Submit your question via Facebook, Twitter @EMBLorg, Google+ or YouTube, tagged #EMBL40Q, or via the form

...read more
Jul 312014
 
International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014 at EMBL

We immensely enjoyed interacting with the participants of the International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014. It has been an impressing group of international students who have joined us for the practical workshop at EMBL. We have done hands-on experiments in the training labs of the EMBL Advanced Training Center, explored the biology of the model system Zebrafish in the EMBL

...read more
Jul 302014
 
International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014

In a few minutes we will be starting the International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014 at EMBL. A group of international students will visit EMBL and during the course we will do exciting wet-lab experiments together, visit EMBL research facilities and perform a bioinformatics treasure hunt to find out more about our “molecule of the

...read more
© 2011-2013 EMBLog ELLS - European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences